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BRUNSWICK — An incubator for burgeoning technology companies was featured in a ceremonial wall-breaking ceremony held at Brunswick Landing.
TechPlace, a shared office and manufacturing space being constructed in a former aircraft hanger and maintenance shop, is being billed as an critical part of the reuse “master plan” at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.
Officials hope the facility will become a hub of technology innovation and help jump-start businesses that can spur economic growth.
“The TechPlace companies will join the fabric of this campus and join other world class businesses that have made Brunswick Landing their home,” said Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, speaking to a crowd of about 50 people at the ceremony.
Other speakers included gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine; state Economic Development Commissioner George Gervais; state Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, and Town Council Chairman Benet Pols.
Michaud, who is in a three-way race for governor against incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Culter, said the progress being made toward redeveloping the former base is a tribute to the “resiliency, foresight, and plain hard work” of the greater Brunswick community.
“Technology and manufacturing means jobs, ” Michaud said. “TechPlace will ensure that the runways and roadways of Brunswick Naval Air Station will be busy once again.”
MRRA officials expect that companies in the aviation, composite materials, biotech and renewable energy markets will be particularly drawn to the 93,000 square-foot space.
Those fields were chosen specifically to fit in with businesses that have already established themselves at Brunswick Landing, said Kristine Schuman, the facility’s administrator.
Funding for the $1.5 million facility was provided through the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, Brunswick Development Corp. and the federal “Make it in America Challenge” manufacturing program.
About a quarter of the facility will be converted into offices, while the rest is being refitted into shared and individual manufacturing spaces.
MRRA intends to be flexible with tenants based on the number of employees and need for equipment or construction space, Schuman said.
Officials are already discussing leases for the space with a handful of companies and hopes to have five tenants ready to move in when the first phase of the project is completed in December.
To reduce the overhead for start-ups, the facility will include manufacturing equipment and machinery, as well as provide shared administrative services and advisers to offer advice on issues like marketing and legal matters, Schuman added.
The agency also expects to establish a mentoring program between new companies and established businesses, she added.
“We’re here to help them succeed,” not just offer office and manufacturing space, Schuman said.
At least one client is already chomping at the bit to set up shop.
Jeremy Litchfield, who runs Atayne, a Brunswick-based business that makes athletic wear from recycled components, said his small company has been looking to expand and saw an ideal fit in TechPlace.
Atayne contracts with manufacturers in North Carolina, Ohio and Massachusetts, but wants to do more of its own work in Maine, Litchfield said.
Although the MRRA facility has the equipment and space he needs, interacting with companies sharing the space is an attractive aspect of the unique facility, Litchfield said.
“We have historically been a design company, and now we’re bringing on manufacturing,” Litchfield said. “Being able to connect with other manufacturers, who may seem like they are doing something very different, but have similar processes will be great.”
His company is just coming off its busy season, and Litchfield said he hopes to move in as soon as possible and be up and running by next spring.
“I think Kristine is probably ready to have me stop asking ‘when can we move in, when can we move in,'” Litchfield said. “I’m ready to go.”
Officials at the TechPlace business incubator at Brunswick Landing on Sept. 4 included Maine Economic Development Commissioner George Gervais, left, TechPlace administrator Kristine Schuman, Brunswick Town Council Chairman Benet Pols, state Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, and Executive Director Steve Levesque of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority.