WESTBROOK – While the news that Disability RMS will relocate to South Portland in February 2016 is considered a major blow to Westbrook’s economy, city officials say they’ll be working to limit the negative economic impact.

The move was announced last Friday by Bill Baker, the assistant city administrator for business and community relations, soon after a meeting with Disability RMS president Matthew Gilligan. The company was unable to resolve issues in renegotiating its lease at One Riverfront Plaza, adjacent to the Dana Warp Mill.

Baker said Saturday that the news was “of grave concern to us.”

Though the loss of 350 people in the city’s downtown will not be felt until 2016, Baker said Wednesday that the impact will most likely be felt in some of the service businesses in the immediate area, such as Doughboys Deli.

However, Baker said, the city’s hope is to have “quality new tenants” lined up to come into the building once Disability RMS moves to the Southborough Office Park in South Portland.

Mayor Colleen Hilton said in a press release last week that the city is “extremely disappointed to be losing Disability RMS, which has been a great corporate partner, an important presence in our downtown and of course a major employer in the city.”

Since its move to Westbrook in 2004, Disability RMS has grown steadily. Previously, employees were scattered in four locations around Portland.

The company provides disability risk management products and services. In a 2006 survey, Disability RMS was named the best company with more than 200 employees to work for in Maine by Pennsylvania-based Best Companies Group.

In 2007, the company said that it had “no plans to leave” Westbrook. Instead, the company spoke about expanding. The company leased the entire 125,000-square-foot building, although one floor was vacant.

According to last week’s press release, Westbrook officials learned in October that the company was struggling to renegotiate its lease with the landlord, Pendleton Westbrook LLC, based in Hackensack, N.J., and that it had begun looking at alternative space.

Baker said that he traveled to New Jersey a few months ago to discuss options with the landlord, which brought the sides closer together, temporarily.

“Both sides indicated they were making progress, but they were offered economic incentives that were apparently impossible for the landlord in New Jersey to match,” he said.

“It is important for the Greater Westbrook business community to understand the effort the city of Westbrook made to keep this from happening,” the release said.

Baker said that while “it’s up to the market what happens next,” the city can work “aggressively with the landlord to try to deliver some quality new tenants.”

Ed Symbol, owner of printing business Full Court Press on Main Street, said Wednesday that the loss of Disability RMS may not have huge repercussions for downtown businesses, but could have a “trickle down” effect on restaurants as well as his business.

“Every little bit helps, so there will certainly be some impact there,” he said.

Symbol, who is also an executive committee member on the city’s new downtown coalition, said he’s hoping the news can serve as a rallying cry for more people to get involved.

“I think every time something like this happens in Westbrook, people kind of rally and pick each other up, and I think this committee can do that,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to show people what we can do.”

Baker said last week that Disability RMS received an offer from a private landowner in South Portland, who was in the “unique position to offer financial incentives to DRMS.”

“Westbrook is a superb place to do business and there are many reasons why we wish the outcome had been different and we could continue to thrive here,” said Gilligan in the release.

“We remain optimistic for the future of our downtown and this building in particular, and expect to have this building fully occupied and bustling before February of 2016” said Baker.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: