An aircraft company that aimed to bring hundreds of manufacturing jobs to Maine nearly a decade ago has been evicted from its Brunswick Landing workshop after missing rent payments for more than a year.

Kestrel Aeroworks’ lease was terminated Thursday, said Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the quasi-governmental agency that operates the former Navy air base.

The company had not paid rent on its 64,000-square-foot workspace in Hangar 6 for a couple of years, Levesque said. He would not disclose how much back rent the agency is owed because it intends to go to court to recover the money. Kestrel paid $15,000 a month under its 20-year lease, meaning two years of back rent would total $360,000.

The company employed about a dozen people at the site, but wasn’t able to put together the financing it needed to keep going, even though the development authority gave it time to do so, Levesque said.

“They were a tenant and it didn’t work out with us,” Levesque said. “It is like anything else, if you are not current on your rent you have to move on.”

Alan Klapmeier, CEO of Kestrel, which merged with a New Mexico-based jet company in 2015, did not respond to multiple interview requests.

Kestrel was anything but a normal tenant in 2010 when it announced plans to locate in Brunswick. Its parent company, Kestrel Aircraft Co., said it expected to hire at least 300 workers and as many as 600 to build high-tech composite turboprop airplanes in Maine. The company was slated to become one of the first major employers at the former Navy base and bring jobs to the state during the Great Recession.

But a dispute over a financing package, including millions of dollars worth of investment tax credits, dimmed the prospects of Kestrel becoming a major employer. Build-out at the plant stalled as Kestrel and some state officials tried to get more investment incentives than the $20 million that nonprofit corporation CEI agreed to steer toward the company.

In 2012, Kestrel decided to locate its airplane manufacturing division in Wisconsin after that state offered a better financial package, but it kept a smaller engineering and design group at Brunswick Landing. In the years after, the company was dogged by reports of late rent payments and failure to pay its employees’ health care and other benefits.

The outcome of the original investment deal is unclear. Levesque referred all questions about investment to Kestrel.

“It didn’t have anything to do with the state or us,” he said. “We were just the landlord.”

A CEI spokeswoman said Friday that no one at the company was available to answer questions about the Kestrel deal.

Kestrel also faced headwinds in Wisconsin. A 2016 report from Wisconsin Public Radio said the company had yet to build an airplane manufacturing plant in the state.

Stan Gerzofsky, who represented the Brunswick area in the Maine House and Senate from 2000 to 2017, said he supported Kestrel’s move to Brunswick and kept in contact with its owners. Recently, he felt the company was having problems, Gerzofsky said.

“I have known for a while that they have been having a hard time,” Gerzofsky said of his visits to Kestrel’s operation in Hangar 6. “There really hasn’t been any activity over there as far as I can tell.”

Gerzofsky was involved in the creation of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which converted Navy facilities to commercial civilian use after the base was closed in 2011.

“I’m pretty sad to see them go, they were the first real anchor we had out there, but you can’t have 100 percent of the projects be successful,” Gerzofsky said.

While the company appeared to be a big win for Brunswick Landing in 2010, other employers have since brought hundreds of jobs to the former base and it has surpassed redevelopment expectations. More than 100 businesses now employ over 1,300 people, including several aircraft-related companies like Tempus Jets, an aircraft servicing company, and Atol Aviation, a Finnish seaplane company.

The redevelopment authority has invested to attract more aircraft and aerospace companies to 500,000 square feet of hangar space and more than 100 acres of runways and aircraft parking at Brunswick Landing.

A new tenant is already lined up to take the space Kestrel is leaving, Levesque said.

“Businesses come and go, that’s just part of the cycle,” he said. “Not every business is going to make it.”

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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