Brunswick, Scarborough don't regret flirting with Amazon

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Boston is New England’s last hope to host Amazon’s second headquarters, after both of Maine’s entries and several others around the region were eliminated from the running last week.

On Jan. 18, the Seattle-based electronic commerce and cloud computing company released its list of 20 final candidates for the $5 billion so-called HQ2. In total, 

Brunswick and Scarborough were the only towns in the state to enter the race last October; 238 communities in the U.S., Mexico and Canada applied.

The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority submitted Brunswick Landing, the formal Brunswick Naval Air Station, as the town’s bid, and Scarborough town officials suggested the 500-acre Scarborough Downs property as a potential site for the headquarters. 

Steve Levesque, MRRA executive director, said the agency knew it was a long shot going into the competition. But it saw entering as a good opportunity to be noticed. 

“First and foremost we knew we were a very long shot. The classical demographic they were looking for was large metropolitan areas with lots of colleges,” Levesque said. “(But) honestly, you don’t get many opportunities to showcase your assets in front of a large corporation like that.”

Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall echoed that sentiment.

“With 238 proposals, we knew competition would be stiff,” Hall said. “With that recognition, we have no regrets; it was a productive and useful exercise to think critically and articulate the best we could about the Portland region.”

Levesque said putting together the application “wasn’t particularly difficult,” and took about 30 or 40 hours of agency work. Hall said there was no cost to Scarborough to develop and submit a proposal, since no consultant or marketing was used.

In addition to estimating it will spend $5 billion on the new headquarters, Amazon has placed a premium on receiving tax breaks and other incentives.

Amazon has also estimated its new headquarters will create 53,000 jobs either directly or indirectly, and create $38 billion in additional investments in the community that lands the bid.

Besides Boston, cities still in the running include Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia. Toronto is the only non-U.S. city that is still being considered.

Levesque said he still believes the Amazon proposal could open new doors for Brunswick Landing.

The notification he received from Amazon – which he did not believe was a form letter – said the company might be interested in talking to the redevelopment authority in the future.

“Taking the long view here, while we may not get this project, there could be other projects coming down the line,” Levesque said. “You have a team of 20 people at Amazon reading about Maine.”

Scarborough Downs, meanwhile, faces a new era despite the failure to lure Amazon. The harness racing track was recently sold to new owners, with long-term plans for a development that combines residential and commercial uses.

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente. Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext., 106 or at

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.