LIMESTONE, Maine — Limestone’s former Air Pressure base is poised for a revitalization just like that of the previous Brunswick Naval Air Station.
With the $400,000 earmarked within the state’s supplemental finances for a brand new advertising marketing campaign, Loring Improvement Authority employed Steve Levesque as a advertising guide to work with potential traders.
Levesque, the previous govt director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, is well-versed in serving to communities revamp army bases. Together with Levesque, the midcoast authority reworked Brunswick’s former naval air base, which closed in 2011, right into a 3,200-acre enterprise park, a shared manufacturing website with 35 companies and an aviation advanced that features an authority-owned airport.
With Levesque’s experience and state assist, the previous base in Limestone may very well be a serious participant in Maine’s financial system.
When Loring Air Pressure Base closed in 1994, Loring Improvement Authority made it its mission to construct a thriving commerce heart. Massive employers in manufacturing, customer support and meals processing introduced hundreds of jobs to the three,800-acre Loring Commerce Centre for the subsequent twenty years.
However these corporations have left. Loring Improvement Authority’s lack of lease income led to a finances shortfall that left little room for advertising the bottom and bringing in new giant employers. That modified final yr when Gov. Janet Mills earmarked the cash for the previous base’s advertising marketing campaign.
Since then, a start-up sustainable aviation gasoline producer and synthetic intelligence analysis heart have agreed to speculate hundreds of thousands to construct or renovate amenities and create a whole lot of jobs. Personal traders from Inexperienced 4 Maine LLC acquired 450 acres final yr, aiming to show their land right into a hub for corporations with nationwide and native pursuits.
“For a lot too lengthy Loring was not on the radar of traders trying to develop their companies,” Mills mentioned on Wednesday. “[Now] Loring is primed to welcome forward-thinking corporations and the great paying jobs that accompany them.”
Loring’s issues started in 2013 when Maine Army Authority started shedding a whole lot of staff after dropping contracts for gear upkeep and rebuilding with the Nationwide Guard Bureau. These contracts have been the core of Maine Army Authority’s work. At its peak, the corporate employed 500 folks.
The corporate’s efforts to develop contracts for transit bus repairs proved unsuccessful. Maine Army Authority closed its doorways in 2018.
Maine Army Authority’s preliminary layoffs led to a greater than $300,000 loss in lease income for Loring Improvement Authority. Different main companies like Sitel’s name heart and Hydroblend, a meals processing heart, closed in 2015 and 2019, respectively, bringing with them a mixed 200 jobs and reducing Loring income.
“There actually was no advertising finances. All we might do was preserve the lights on and the roads plowed,” mentioned Denise Garland, deputy commissioner for Maine’s Division of Financial and Neighborhood Improvement. Garland has served on Loring Improvement Authority’s board of administrators since 2020.
It was after Levesque got here on board and revamped Loring’s internet presence that DG Fuels selected Loring as considered one of two U.S. websites for a $4 billion sustainable aviation gasoline facility. The huge open land for constructing, railroad and pipeline entry and proximity to forest merchandise have been key promoting factors, Levesque famous.
“It’s a must to present folks what alternatives they’ve,” Levesque mentioned. “It’s a must to have a long-term view [for redevelopment] as a result of it doesn’t occur in a single day. It took six to eight years earlier than we knew Brunswick can be in constructive form.”
Like in Brunswick, Loring may even want personal traders to launch Aroostook into extra trendy, revolutionary industries, Levesque mentioned. Inexperienced 4 Maine is a major instance.
Simply months after buying land, the Maine-based traders signed on Everlasting Thoughts, a Kennebunk firm that plans to rent from 30 to 50 folks and begin Maine’s first AI analysis heart at Loring.
Everlasting Minds plans to analysis quantum computing, a kind of synthetic intelligence that emulates facets of human cognition and might help in medical analysis. Officers count on to compete with the likes of Google and Microsoft on quantum computing breakthroughs.
No different corporations have signed on but, however Levesque mentioned that there was curiosity in potential aerospace and aviation corporations. Levesque has been a part of conversations with the brand new Maine House Company, which desires Loring to turn out to be a launch and manufacturing website for satellites and small rockets.
Levesque can also be serving to Loring officers develop a grasp plan for his or her airport, which might open up alternatives for cargo flights and horizontal rocket check launches on the runway, very like the one that Brunswick-based blushift Aerospace did in 2021.
Individuals have to find out about locations like Brunswick and Loring for these locations to redevelop, Levesque mentioned.
“All of these items taking place are constructing blocks,” Levesque mentioned. “I understand Loring as being extra necessary to those industries than southern Maine as a result of we have now such an enormous area to work with.”