A technician cuts a piece of mesh polypropylene at Southern Maine Community College in Brunswick in 2015. The Composite Engineering Research Laboratory is moving to the University of Southern Maine. (Whitney Hayward/Portland Press Herald)

BRUNSWICK — The Composite Engineering Research Laboratory at Brunswick Landing’s TechPlace announced it is leaving Brunswick after almost a decade, in a partnership with the University of Southern Maine designed to “solve the problem of workforce development,” according to Stephen Von Vogt, managing director of the Maine Composites Alliance.

“Being at USM will allow us to teach students about material science, engage them in the technical problems that CERL is solving for industry, and then place them with the companies in Maine and New England that desperately need their assistance,” Von Vogt said in a news release.

Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority at the grand opening of a new state of the art composite layup facility in February. (Hannah LaClaire/The Times Record)

The research laboratory has been at Brunswick Landing since 2011 when it started as a support mechanism for Maine industry at the Southern Maine Community College’s Brunswick Landing campus. It then outgrew its initial lab space at SMCC and moved to TechPlace — a technology manufacturing hub also on the former base — in 2015.

Composites are materials made up of multiple other materials, ranging from wood and plastics to ceramics and metals, that take on different properties when combined. They’re used in construction, aerospace, military applications and more. The composites industry is one of Brunswick Landing’s target sectors along with aviation, biotechnology, information technology, renewable energy and education.

CERL is a full-service analytical laboratory and a prototype manufacturing center that serves industries like wind and hydro-kinetics, marine and aerospace that sure polymer reinforced systems.

The laboratory will be in the Dubyak Center at the University’s Portland campus, which was established in October with a $1 million donation from Michael Dubyak, the current chair and former president and CEO of Wex.

Officials from USM and the Maine Composites Alliance will officially announce the collaboration Friday at the university’s Portland campus.

“We are strategically advancing our technical and innovation capabilities to provide greater opportunities for both students and local industry,” said Jeremy Qualls, the dean of USM’s College of Science, Technology and Health said, calling it a “milestone and boon for all of Southern Maine.”

“It makes all the sense in the world,” Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority said of the move.

Despite the loss of the roughly $1.5 million in CERL’s equipment, TechPlace will only lose three employees and, according to Levesque, this is exactly what is supposed to happen at TechPlace. Companies are not intended to “be in TechPlace on a permanent basis,” but to stay there until they (hopefully) succeed and grow to their own locations, he said.

The redevelopment authority oversees the rebuilding of the former Naval base and what is now Brunswick Executive Airport, which closed down in 2011 and took thousands of jobs out of Brunswick.

Over the past several years, the Redevelopment Authority has worked to draw startup companies to the business incubator TechPlace. There are 37 companies in TechPlace employing 101 full-time and part-time employees.

TechPlace is also still home to a state-of-the-art composite layup facility that opened in February with the hope of drawing businesses and workers to manufacturing jobs in Maine.

The facility is the largest of its kind of the northeast, Levesque said at the time. Any company in Maine can use the facility, although TechPlace companies get preference.

“A research facility tied to a college system is a good fit,” he said Monday, adding that it was probably a better one than Brunswick Landing. “I’m happy for them, they’re a still a partner of ours,” he said.

Gillian Graham of the Portland Press Herald contributed to this report.

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