SEN. ANGUS KING, I-Maine, left, with RollEase Senior Vice President Greg Farr, center, and design engineer Michael Brown on Friday during a tour of Farr’s company at Brunswick Landing.

SEN. ANGUS KING, I-Maine, left, with RollEase Senior Vice President Greg Farr, center, and design engineer Michael Brown on Friday during a tour of Farr’s company at Brunswick Landing.

BRUNSWICK

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said he vividly remembered the day in 2005 when it was announced that the Brunswick Naval Air Station would close.

“I was stunned,” said King. “Later I thought, ‘the economy’s doing well. We’ll be OK.’ Then, the recession hit. It was much tougher than people thought to restore the base. But now I think we’re in good shape.”

SEN. ANGUS KING, right, examines a 3D scanner Friday during a tour of RollEase at Brunswick Landing with Tom Brown, a design engineer.

SEN. ANGUS KING, right, examines a 3D scanner Friday during a tour of RollEase at Brunswick Landing with Tom Brown, a design engineer.

As of January, there were about 536 fulltime positions employed by companies that have located to the former base, mainly in science, medical, technology and other target areas, according to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority.

That is near the amount of civilian jobs at the base, according to King.

However, it’s estimated that nearly 5,000 total full-time jobs were lost by the time the Navy left the base in 2011.

To boost job growth at the former base, MRRA had been looking to a change in the federal Historically Underutilized Business Zones program.

That program assists communities affected by military installation closures by giving businesses established on closed bases preferential access to federal procurement opportunities. To qualify, at least 35 percent of the business’s employees must reside on the closed base.

In 2014, King had proposed an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would alter the HUBZone program to allow businesses that locate on a closed base to draw employees from local communities, such as Brunswick and Bath.

The amendment passed in the Senate but got hung up in the House Small Business Committee.

MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque on Jan. 28 said he was planning a trip to Washington, D.C. “to meet with key House people who opposed HUBZone.”

“We’re back at it,” King said. “Last year we got it to the 20-yard line. This year we hope to put it over.”

King was cautiously optimistic that a HUBZone change may come this year.

“One is never confident in the United States Congress. Let’s just say I am hopeful,” said King, speaking after touring two Brunswick Landing companies, RollEase and Mölnlycke Health Care.

While MRRA and other base redevelopment agencies could gain from a future HUBZone change, RollEase Senior Vice President Greg Farr said more companies like his could be drawn to Maine if the state improved coordination with local municipalities.

State and local government, he said, need to put together programs that convince companies that Maine is a good place to do business.

“The state and the municipalities have a bifurcated approach, and they don’t really have a proposal and a program to entice you and help you to do business here,” said Farr.

RollEase is a 35-year-old Connecticut-based custom window covering supplier that recently invested approximately $400,000 in renovating its facility at Brunswick Landing to turn it into an Innovation Center for high-tech testing and research and development. The company hired 10 employees in 2014, utilizing federal grant money for onthe job training for the company’s state-of-the-art equipment.

The company was named Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber’s New Business Venture of the Year on Jan. 23.

King also toured Mölnlycke Health Care’s Brunswick Landing facility, which manufactures wound care and surgical products. The Swedish company, which operates another location in Wiscasset, recently invested $47 million in its facilities and added 50 jobs in 2013, employing a total of 140 people, according to King’s office.

“This is a great location,” said King, referring to Brunswick Landing. “It’s wonderful to see these facilities, and see them come to life.”

The Brunswick resident and former Maine governor lamented the loss of Navy personnel who were once ingrained in the community’s churches, youth sports leagues, and other areas of the community.

“We will never replace what the Navy brought to this community — not in terms of the economy or dollars, but in terms of the people,” said King. “That was such an important part of this community, and that’s something we’ve lost. Life is full of changes, and they’re building a strong workforce out here. That’s a great asset to Brunswick.”


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