The LePage administration is hoping that the world’s largest manufacturer of aircraft and trains will consider expanding its operations to Maine.

The governor’s economic development team and the agency that’s redeveloping the Brunswick Naval Air Station met in May with officials from Bombardier Inc., a Canada-based company with facilities throughout North America, Asia and Europe.

Economic and Community Development Commissioner George Gervais, who attended the meeting with two representatives from Bombardier’s aerospace division, described it as preliminary but successful.

Gervais said there have been discussions with Bombardier since the meeting May 10, but he declined to elaborate.

He said the administration and the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority invited Bombardier representatives to come to Maine to learn about the state’s aerospace supply chain, composites cluster, skilled work force and assets at the former Navy base, now called Brunswick Landing.

Gervais said the state isn’t pursuing a specific project but state officials want to make sure that Maine will be considered if Bombardier does add a service center in the region.

The meeting was held five months after the administration and the redevelopment authority lost a bidding war with Wisconsin to secure potential manufacturing jobs associated with the aircraft start-up Kestrel Aeroworks.

Christina Peikert, director of marketing and communications for Bombardier, said the meeting was exploratory. She said the company made no commitment and is always reviewing its options to accommodate growth.

Cameron Doerksen, an aerospace industry analyst with National Bank Financial in Montreal, closely tracks Bombardier’s performance. He said he doubts that Bombardier would consider the former Navy base for manufacturing because the company tends to expand such operations in low-cost labor markets.

However, he said, Brunswick Landing could host an aftermarket servicing outfit for Bombardier’s growing small business jet division or its still-in-development C Series aircraft.

Peikert said Bombardier has eight service and repair facilities in the United States, including one in Hartford, Conn., that was established 30 years ago.

She acknowledged that Bombardier representatives who met with the LePage administration were from the company’s service division.

Steve Levesque, executive director of the redevelopment authority in Brunswick, offered few details about the meeting.

“We don’t comment on prospects that we’re working with,” said Levesque, who also said the talks with Bombardier were preliminary.

Brunswick Landing, with 300,000 square feet of hangar space and 8,000-foot runways, appears well-suited for a service center for Bombardier. Additionally, the redevelopment plan targets aircraft maintenance and overhaul, to ease permitting for such operations.

Kestrel Aeroworks was to occupy Hangar 6, the newest and largest hangar at Brunswick Landing. However, the company announced in January that it would establish its manufacturing operation in Wisconsin because that state offered better financial incentives.

The announcement was a significant blow to the redevelopment efforts in Brunswick. The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority has lured several business, but is still seeking an anchor tenant.

The base was designated for closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2005. The Navy decommissioned the 3,300-acre base last year.

Gervais said it is too early to speculate about Bombardier’s plans, but he indicated that last month’s meeting may have been well-timed.

Bombardier recently announced a sharp drop in quarterly sales and profits, but its share price increased on the Toronto Stock Exchange after the company announced increased aircraft orders and a healthy backlog. Bombardier, which is known for manufacturing the Learjet and trains, announced first-quarter revenues of $3.5 billion.

Gervais said the state and the redevelopment authority contacted Bombardier to get on the company’s radar and dispel misconceptions about the state’s business and tax climate. He said the state’s reputation has been hurt by an oft-cited Forbes report in December that ranked Maine last in business friendliness for the second straight year.  

The Forbes ranking was campaign fodder for LePage when he was running for governor in 2010.

“It was a successful meeting,” Gervais said. “I think (Bombardier) was very unaware of our supply chain advantages, incentive programs and business tax climate. … They were pleasantly surprised.”

State House Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: smistler@mainetoday.com

Twitter: stevemistler