BRUNSWICK — The latest in a series of federal grants aimed at boosting economic development efforts at Brunswick Landing – $5 million from the U.S. Department of Labor – was designed to train unemployed high-tech workers.
The grant, issued to Coastal Counties Workforce, was announced last week. It will be used to offset the costs of on-the-job training for many Brunswick Landing businesses, allowing them to hire more local residents.
But several of the largest businesses at Brunswick Landing say they haven’t had trouble hiring local people at all, although they acknowledged they have had to look elsewhere for some employees.
According to figures supplied by the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the public agency charged with redeveloping the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, just under 100 jobs have been created as of Sept. 20.
American Bureau of Shipping, a Texas-based provider of marine and offshore classification services, is responsible for adding 22 of those jobs, and representative Jennifer Buley said 18 of them were filled by Mainers. The company has projected it will create a total of 30 jobs in the next three years.
She said resumes began to pile up as soon as the company announced it was moving to Brunswick in April.
“We got such a tremendous response for applicants, I don’t know that we had to extend a lot of energy looking for people,” Buley said. “I think we pretty much hired from the direct responses we got.”
Another Brunswick Landing business, cyber security company Resilient Tier-V Corp., has tapped into Goodwill Workforce Solutions for eight of its recent hires. The company has created 33 jobs thus far out of a projected 150 in the next three years.
The Goodwill Workforce program is similar to the type of service that Coastal Counties Workforce hopes to offer: Goodwill subsidizes the cost of retraining unemployed workers for jobs on the former Navy base.
Nancy Forrester, vice president of administration and human resources at Resilient, said the company looks to Goodwill when it doesn’t need to fill a position right away and can wait for a local worker to be retrained.
“We are very committed to hiring locally … knowing that we need to invest and do some retraining work,” she said.
When the company needs to hire immediately, Forrester said sometimes they draw on their employees’ networks to find someone from away who already has all the skills necessary.
But when they do hire locally, they look for former employees of the Navy and Bath Iron Works – a common theme among Resilient, ABS and Kestrel Aircraft.
Scott Prinz, a spokesman for Kestrel, said several of the company’s 24 workers were recently laid off by BIW.
“Of these, 15 were hired locally, three transferred from our Duluth, Minn., facility, and six from other parts of the country,” Prinz said in an email.
While Prinz said the company has been successful hiring locally to date, he also said the company expects to be forced to look out of state for experienced aerospace personnel. But he believes “there will be good candidates for production work force” in the Brunswick area, and is hoping to hold a job fair in coming weeks for local candidates.
Ultimately, Kestrel hopes to employ 300 workers.
Understanding the interest all the Brunswick Landing companies have in employees with engineering backgrounds, Mike Bourret, director of Coastal Counties Workforce, said the new training program would likely incorporate a lot of former BIW workers.
“We have folks at BIW who were recently laid off … but some of these individuals, depending on their skill sets, may be ideal candidates for additional training for design at some of the other companies,” he said.
Jim DeMartini, spokesman for BIW, said he doesn’t keep track of how many former employees are hired at Brunswick Landing.
But because BIW is moving into the fabrication phase of a production cycle, it has recently laid off a disproportionate number of designers and engineers, whose skills may be more readily applicable to the high-tech companies at Brunswick Landing, DeMartini said.
Steve Levesque, executive director of MRRA, said the new training program will be a big boost for the Brunswick Landing companies.
“Obviously any time you have resources that are going to train people for skilled jobs that are needed by the technology companies that we’re trying to grow on the property, it’s critical,” Levesque said.