Forecaster Forum: Brunswick Landing is how redevelopment is done

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When the Navy packed up and left Brunswick in 2011, some feared the worst. There was a feeling that our local and state economy would suffer for years because of the federal government’s decision to close the base. Many wondered how would we ever transform that massive property into something equally, if not more, economically viable? How would we ever replace what was lost in terms of jobs, community and overall economic engine?

If history is any indication, we know that redeveloping former military institutions tends to be a very slow process and there are, of course, no guarantees those efforts will succeed. That’s the mantra we heard repeated over and over again from people involved in similar efforts in communities across the country. While redevelopment undoubtedly takes time, money and patience, we have not let that deter us in regards to Brunswick Landing.

In the midst of a shaky global economy and in spite of the many challenges, we can absolutely be proud of what has taken place so far at Brunswick Landing in a span of a little more than two years.  

The former Navy base is now home to 30 business entities, including seven businesses completely new to Maine. Three-hundred fifty new jobs have been created, and that figure is expected to double by the end of 2014. This year alone we have welcomed Molnlycke Health Care, with 80-100 new jobs projected; Savilinx, 150-200 new jobs; Tri-Star Sheet Metal, 40 temporary jobs; ABL Electric, 10 new jobs projected; Fessenden Geo-technical, five new jobs projected, and Tempus Jets, 200-plus new jobs projected.

To accommodate even further development, 300 acres and 26 buildings in Brunswick and the former Commissary in Topsham have been sold to private developers. Brunswick Landing is also now home to Southern Maine Community College where, among other studies, students can be trained for high-quality, aerospace jobs.  

How did this happen so quickly, surpassing most everyone’s expectations? It’s all about teamwork and an attitude of state and local partners working together for not just the benefit of one community, but the entire state. In September, Maine was honored to host the 2013 Base Redevelopment Forum, sponsored by the Association of Defense Communities. This put recent efforts at Brunswick Landing in the national spotlight, as a shining example of what other base redevelopment efforts should aspire.

Good things happen when government participates as a partner with the private sector, as is the case under the leadership of Gov. Paul LePage. The state has invested close to $8 million in the redevelopment of Brunswick Landing. Those funds have already helped leverage more than $100 million in private investment and another $33 million in additional federal funds. By the end of this year, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority will have sold more than 370,000 square feet of space to private developers. More than $51 million in new tax base has been added to the tax rolls in Brunswick and Topsham.

A perfect example is the effort to land Tempus Jets. Government must continue moving at the speed of business in order to keep this momentum going. That strategy clearly facilitated the landing of Tempus Jets this summer.

Brunswick Landing is very much alive and thriving. Cars and buses are moving on and off the property on a regular basis. People are walking and biking on campus, construction is taking place; the property no longer has that feel of a ghost town. There is also a renewed energy around town as more people are talking about the positive momentum building in their community.

As a local taxpayer, this trend is very encouraging. As one of Gov. LePage’s account executives, I can assure you we will continue doing all we can to make Brunswick Landing and the entire state as business friendly and welcoming to new private investment as possible.  

Success at Brunswick Landing is a team effort. There continues to be positive collaboration between the state, the MRRA and local officials. Maine has a vested interest in the continued success at Brunswick Landing. If 2013 is any indication, Brunswick Landing is well on its way to becoming a strong and sustainable economic engine for Maine.

Kristine Schuman is a Gov. LePage account executive for businesses in York, Sagadahoc, and Cumberland counties.

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Kristine Schuman