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Local logger speaks to struggling industry during coronavirus

AW Madden Inc. says they have struggled during the coronavirus.
AW Madden Inc. says they have struggled during the coronavirus.(AW Madden)
Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 4:10 PM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - We first told you about the struggling logging industry last week. Officials say business is down 30 to 40 percent.

“When the virus started back this winter, I thought we’d be fine. People were hoarding paper towels and toilet paper and those are all products from wood. Then, the markets changed,” says Tony Madden, Owner of AW Madden Incorporated of Milford.

In January, markets slowed down as the coronavirus hit countries like Asia, halting exports. Madden says he hobbled along into the spring.

But in April, he was dealt another blow. “The Pixelle Mill digester explosion took away at least half of my market, and we had to scramble to get other markets,” he says.

All of this pushed back his summer start by a couple of months. Madden says, “It’s just been a struggle to keep people working.” He says he did apply and did receive funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, “Which was a real boost to keep my employees working when I didn’t really have any work to do, but we managed to keep them going.”

Besides the PPP, which many small businesses were eligible for, Madden says the logging industry has received no other assistance from the federal government. “We grow trees, farmers grow corn. We are considered agriculture, but we still haven’t seen any help from the federal government," says Madden.

Madden says what the industry needs now is market expansion. He says a ramp up in production from Nine Dragons Paper Mill in Old Town would be a big help. “Maybe Pixelle will rebuild, and if they do, we’re off and running again. The virus would go away, and everybody would be happy,” says Madden.

While Madden remains hopeful for some sort of breakthrough, as President of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, he says many of his colleagues are worried. He says, “All of the loggers I’ve been talking to statewide are going through the same problems. Some are worse. Some people really relied on certain markets and have no other place to go.”

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