Wisconsin lands Kestrel Aircraft plant, 100s of jobs originally promised to Brunswick

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BRUNSWICK — Kestrel Aircraft has picked Superior, Wis., as the future home of its airplane manufacturing plant and 600 jobs.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was in Superior Monday morning to make the announcement.

“I am pleased with the aggressive package we have put forth in conjunction with strong local support to make this major job creation contribution to Superior,” Walker in a prepared statement.

According to the statement, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority will provide $18 million in tax credits to the company, plus another $4 million in loans.

The city of Superior is offering the company a $2.4 million low-interest loan, free land in the city’s industrial park and inexpensive land at the county fairgrounds.

WHEDA is also administering $30 million in tax credits through the federal New Market Tax Credit program, which Kestrel tapped into to launch Kestrel Aeroworks, a separate manufacturing and repair business, at Brunswick Landing.

Monday’s announcement came less than three weeks after Alan Klapmeier, Kestrel’s chief executive officer, confirmed he was considering Wisconsin because that state could provide more economic incentives than Maine, and just days after Gov. Paul LePage reaffirmed his commitment to bringing Kestrel Aircraft to Brunswick.

“The administration, state agencies, and Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority have been steadfast in their commitment to provide the available resources for this project,” LePage said in a Jan. 13 statement. “The Maine team has put forth a very comprehensive and competitive financial package for Kestrel. We are ready to make this happen and have been for many months.”

Steve Levesque, executive director of Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, Monday said the company will still use Brunswick Landing’s state-of-the-art Hangar 6 to finish airplanes constructed in Wisconsin, boosting the number of local jobs from about 25 to 100.

“The jobs are still going to be created in Brunswick. There’s still going to be a company there,” Levesque said. “It’s probably not going to be the 300 that they predicted, but there will be some.”

Levesque bristled at the suggestion MRRA could have been more cautious about the way the Kestrel deal was promoted in July 2010, when there was an Augusta fly-in attended by former Gov. John Baldacci, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and other dignitaries.

He said it was Kestrel’s decision, not MRRA’s, to go public with the announcement it was planning to build airplanes in Brunswick.

“We don’t make decisions to announce deals until the company’s ready to announce it,” he said. “Unfortunately, the financing that they had thought would come through didn’t come through. It happens sometimes.”

Levesque also said the press has sensationalized the Kestrel story, which also includes an attempt by Berlin, N.H., to lure the company’s business.

Spokesmen for Kestrel and Gov. Paul LePage did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

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