Brunswick, Scarborough borrow attractions to lure Amazon

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BRUNSWICK — It doesn’t cost to ask.

That was the finding in Freedom of Access Act requests by Muckrock, a nonprofit collaborative news site, on the cost of bids by Brunswick and Scarborough for the planned second headquarters of retail giant Amazon.

While officials in Scarborough and Brunswick have admitted they are long shots to land what Seattle-based Amazon calls HQ2, the lure of a potential 50,000 jobs prompted bids from the quasi-governmental Scarborough Economic Development Corp. and the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority.

Both bids also illustrate their efforts with photographic icons from beyond their borders – Cape Elizabeth in Brunswick’s case, while Scarborough enlists aid from Portland.

MRRA oversees redevelopment at Brunswick Landing – the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, which closed in 2011.

Brunswick Landing encompasses more than 3,200 acres, according to the bid package submitted Oct. 18, and has high-speed digital infrastructure and sustainable energy resources for any new headquarters. The proposal offers sites of 45 acres or 130 acres for consideration.

In Scarborough, SEDCO centered on the 479 acres now held by Scarborough Downs, property once considered for a casino and also envisioned for mixed-use development that could surround a casino.

In October, Town Manager Tom Hall said the track and land are under contract with Crossroads Holdings LLC, although details have not been revealed.

In both instances, FOAA requests sought details on any third-party contracts or other budget details about preparing the bids. Muckrock determined no money was spent or budgeted for the services in either town.

More than 25 communities or counties received requests from the website, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, reported nearly $70,000 in spending. Camden County, New Jersey, authorized spending up to $40,000 according to Muckrock.

Amazon has estimated it will spend $5 billion on HQ2, and has placed a premium on receiving tax breaks and other incentives. It has also estimated its new headquarters will create 53,000 jobs either directly or indirectly, and create $38 billion in additional investments in the local community that lands the bid.

The company reported 238 bids were received at the Oct. 19 filing deadline.

The Maine bids went beyond the towns to include the state and region as reasons why Amazon would benefit; Brunswick’s promotional material prominently displays a photo of Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, while Scarborough uses an image of the Portland waterfront.

The Brunswick bid estimates there are 400,000 employees within a 50-mile radius. The Scarborough bid places the number at more than 500,000, while also detailing local mean and average wages for the potential Amazon jobs.

While an Amazon headquarters in Brunswick has direct access to the Brunswick Executive Airport, a Scarborough headquarters would be within 10 minutes of the Portland International Jetport, downtown Portland and local beaches. Both bids claim two-hour drive times to Boston, and the Brunswick bid added the direct Amtrak link.

The tax incentives for the headquarters are largely from the same state sources.

Brunswick Landing is part of a Pine Tree Redevelopment Zone, offering tax credits to employers on corporate income taxes, health insurance costs, subsidies for wages and training and rebates to companies for portions of income taxes paid by employees.

In all, the MRRA bid said an investment of $315 million could return $201 million to Amazon in incentives.

The SEDCO bid details state tax breaks, including full exemptions on the Business Equipment Tax, programs to help recruit staff by paying student debt, and tax increment financing base on employment. The town can also offer tax increment financing to return property taxes based on increased valuations to companies.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority employed an image of Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth to front its bid for Amazon HQ2 at Brunswick Landing.

While proposing Scarborugh Downs as the site for Amazon HQ2, Scarborough made a regional appeal to the company.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.