STATE SEN. STAN GERZOFSKY, D-Brunswick, right, speaks at the opening of TechPlace at Brunswick Landing in 2015. Gerzofsky has introduced a bill to invest a capital fund within the Finance Authority of Maine. Left, MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque at the TechPlace opening, is supporting Gerzofsky’s bill as a tool to bring more jobs to the former military base.

STATE SEN. STAN GERZOFSKY, D-Brunswick, right, speaks at the opening of TechPlace at Brunswick Landing in 2015. Gerzofsky has introduced a bill to invest a capital fund within the Finance Authority of Maine. Left, MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque at the TechPlace opening, is supporting Gerzofsky’s bill as a tool to bring more jobs to the former military base.

AUGUSTA

A measure aimed at attracting large business investments to Maine received unanimous bipartisan support Tuesday in the state’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development committee.

“This is a jobs bill for Maine people,” said Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, DBrunswick, the bill’s sponsor, in a press release Tuesday after the committee work session on the bill. “Improving our ability to attract major business will be a game changer in job creation. Maine does a great job in supporting our small business sector. This bill will make us a player in bringing in companies that create hundreds, not dozens, of jobs.”

The bill, LD 1480, would establish the Invest in Maine Capital Fund within the Finance Authority of Maine. The fund would support businesses developments that meet three criteria: They must commit to investing at least $50 million in Maine, create or retain at least 250 jobs, and pay their employees at least 125 percent of the state average wage.

In his testimony, Gerzofsky states in part, “LD 1480 addresses a void in our state when it comes to the resources available to support very large development projects.”

According to Gerzofsky, Maine is not competitive in the marketplace and has been unable to attract and retain large investment. His bill seeks to make the state more competitive and proposes the establishment of the Invest in Maine Capital Fund within FAME.

He also has stressed the fund in not intended to be capitalized by taxpayer dollars.

“Nor will it put Maine taxpayers on the hook should any investments fail,” he said in his testimony.

Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority charged with redeveloping the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, testified in favor of the bill.

“While Maine has done a terrific job in supporting small business growth, it lacks sufficient resources, particularly in the area of capital access, to support the very large development projects that could transform local and regional economies,” Levesque said.

Bill Norbert of Brunswick, the Governmental Affairs and Communications Manager at FAME, also testified in favor of the bill and suggested some amendments to improve the bill language.

“FAME supports the goal of making more capital available to support economic development,” he said. “This bill would allow us to help finance bigger deals to hopefully attract bigger employers to the state.”

In November, Levesque said Brunswick Landing is looking to attract companies to their large hangar facilities at the former Naval base.

“This just gives us another tool in the tool box,” he said.

Had MRRA had such a tool, for example, “we may have kept all of Kestrel,” Levesque said.

Kestrel Aircraft announced in 2012 that it would manufacture its turboprop plane in Wisconsin — which offered an aggressive financing package — rather than at Brunswick Landing. Composite components of the planes were to continue to be made in Brunswick.

Levesque also said in November that the bill is not just about Brunswick Landing — home to more than 60 businesses which have generated more than $150 million in private sector investment and created more than 500 jobs.

“We’re hoping it will make a difference in the state of Maine,” Levesque said. “Clearly, it’s going to help us attract some large investment in Brunswick.”

The legislation is modeled on successful programs in other states, which have provided seed capital for business creation and expansion. The Maine Capital Fund would essentially operate as a type of mutual fund for business investments and will be capitalized by pension funds, institutional endowments, insurance companies and other types of investment instruments.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

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