Portland launches technology business park

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PORTLAND — Workers have broken ground on Portland Technology Park, a planned 26-acre site off Rand Road that would house offices and research facilities for the region’s growing life-sciences industry.

The first phrase of construction includes installation of utilities and building the initial stretch of a 1,500-foot road. That phase is expected to be finished next summer, according to a press release from the city.

When the entire park is complete in 2014, it would offer more than 120,000 square feet of space in seven buildings on city-owned land near Exit 47 of the Maine Turnpike.

The project is being funded through a $660,000 grant from the federal government’s Economic Development Administration, with matching funds from the city’s capital improvements budget.

To get the park off the ground, the city will partner with businesses in an arrangement similar to a condominium association.

While the city lays down the infrastructure and sells the building lots, each park member will be responsible for financing and constructing its own facilities. Lots will probably be sold for between $250,000 and $400,000, and buildings will range from 10,000-40,000 square feet in size, the city said.

The goal will be to create a hub for new and growing technology-based companies, especially those in biotechnology. Like larger hubs in Massachusetts and North Carolina, the park will allow companies to capitalize on access to nearby educational and scientific resources, as well as to each other.

“Fostering an environment that supports growth and draws life science experts to Portland presents the city with an unprecedented opportunity to realize our goals of creating a research triangle – building linkages between our business community, our education system and research institutes,” Mayor Michael Brennan said in the press release.

“By bringing these groups together in partnership, we can expand economic opportunity and develop a highly skilled workforce.”

Biotechnology is booming in Maine. Since 2002, the state’s biotech companies have increased employment 29 percent to more than 6,000, and annual revenues have increased 209 percent to $1.6 billion, according to the Bioscience Association of Maine.

The Portland area is already home to the state’s largest cluster of biotech businesses, with more than 40 local companies specializing in veterinary pharmaceuticals, immunology, diagnostics, lab products and other sectors.

“The Portland region has been a mini-biotech hub for many years and now that we will have a technology park, technology-driven companies will have more opportunities to expand in this region,” said Joseph Chandler, president of Maine Biotechnology Services.

“With the educational opportunities now offered in the biosciences at University of Southern Maine and University of New England, the construction of the Portland Technology Park will serve as an even greater draw for businesses and jobs. This is a real plus for Portland.”

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.