LIMESTONE, Maine — It’s been a minimum of 25 years since anybody occupied Loring Air Power Base’s former fuel station and repair heart at 232 Growth Drive.
However on July 1, native residents Chris King, Dan Berentes and siblings Chelsey and Artie Rossignol opened Runway Auto & Small Engine. Simply down the highway, at 191 Growth Drive, Ryan Lemire of Limestone has arrange his drone footage enterprise and a brand new arts and media group heart.
Their companies are the primary two native operations which have occupied buildings on the former Loring Air Power Base since new house owners got here on to revitalize the bottom as an industrial, business and group hub.
In February, Inexperienced 4 Maine LLC bought 450 acres, together with 49 buildings, on the three,800-acre Loring Commerce Centre. Inexperienced 4 Maine comes at a time when Loring has seen main employers depart and never get replaced.
Whereas giant business, together with a brand new synthetic intelligence analysis heart, stays a precedence, Inexperienced 4 Maine leaders say that additionally attracting small companies will assist create a extra vibrant and sustainable group.
“When individuals see that there’s extra exercise happening, they’re extra prone to come right here,” mentioned Scott Hinkel, president of Inexperienced 4 Maine.
King mentioned he first confirmed curiosity in presumably beginning a restore store at 232 Growth Drive round a decade in the past. However visits contained in the constructing with the Loring Growth Authority by no means panned out.
At the moment, there have been nonetheless giant employers on the bottom, together with Sitel’s customer support name heart, the Hydroblend meals processing heart and Maine Navy Authority’s tools restore facility. Between them, these three firms employed greater than 700 individuals.
It appeared to King that Loring officers had been extra targeted on changing bigger firms reasonably than filling vacant buildings with extra native companies. That’s why he and his enterprise companions jumped on the prospect to signal a nine-year lease with Inexperienced 4 Maine.
“I known as [Green 4 Maine] and inside an hour I used to be trying on the place,” King mentioned. “They’re very desperate to have native companies are available in. It’s an enormous step in the suitable route.”
In earlier many years, Loring Growth Authority, established after the bottom closed in 1994, targeted extra on attracting bigger industries after which small companies that would kind round them, mentioned Carl Flora, the authority’s president and CEO.
As an illustration, Maine Navy Authority was one in every of Loring’s largest employers, with greater than 500 at its peak within the mid-2000s. After shedding tons of of workers because of the lack of main contracts, a close-by deli misplaced prospects and shuttered round that very same time, Flora mentioned.
“We’ve at all times targeted on creating new jobs for individuals in Maine. The very last thing we wished was one other kind of enterprise that already existed someplace within the area,” Flora mentioned.
Inexperienced 4 Maine and enterprise house owners like King are hoping that the presence of any new enterprise will encourage extra employers, giant and small.
Although Runway Auto remains to be new, King and his companions have seen enterprise choose up slowly since opening. They’ve repainted the constructing’s inside and, with monetary assist from Inexperienced 4 Maine, will give the surface a contemporary coat of paint, set up new bay doorways and exchange the leaking roof.
As soon as that’s performed, Runway Auto could have a brand new American flag, snowmobile and ATV-themed mural, courtesy of Lemire.
Lemire began Elevate Audio & Visible in 2019. He makes use of drone footage to create movies and picture packages for actual property firms, weddings and different occasions. On Inexperienced 4 Maine’s campus, he now has his first business workplace area, together with a makeshift studio for recording music and podcasts.
However he didn’t cease there. After touring the 42,000-square-foot constructing, previously the Loring Utilized Know-how Heart, Lemire realized that his portion may turn into a haven for native artists to showcase and promote their work and work together with artwork fanatics.
Since opening in June, the Inexperienced 4 Maine Artistic Arts & Digital Heart has provided free video manufacturing and audio engineering lessons, paint nights, artwork remedy periods with Restoration Aroostook and open mic nights. The preferred occasion, a hip-hop showcase and open mic, attracted 40 individuals, together with close by Job Corps college students.
Lemire desires to show the media heart right into a nonprofit and create workshop areas that particular person artists can reserve. He has signed a 9-year-lease on his portion of the constructing. S.W. Collins Firm makes use of the remainder of the constructing.
From the beginning, Inexperienced 4 Maine has supported his mixture of art-based enterprise and group service, Lemire mentioned.
“I need to be right here long run. [This space] may not be an enormous factor but it surely’s a begin. It’s one thing that would carry individuals right here,” Lemire mentioned. “You possibly can’t construct again this place with out individuals or an area for the humanities.”
With new native tenants, issues are beginning to search for at Loring, Hinkel mentioned. A neighborhood meals truck, Fork within the Highway, not too long ago signed a nine-year lease to serve lunch at 14 Connecticut Highway a minimum of as soon as every week. Individuals have begun trying on the former Sitel constructing as potential retail or meals enterprise area.
Although no different lease contracts have been signed, he mentioned that Inexperienced 4 Maine is constant conversations with native buyers whereas taking a look at alternatives for brand new aerospace, aviation and industrial ventures. The native companies are already serving to to generate curiosity, Hinkel mentioned.
“We’ve began to see people who find themselves saying, ‘You understand, I forgot this was right here. Let’s test it out,’” Hinkel mentioned. “As soon as individuals noticed that there was new growth, they wished to see what’s right here.”