The proposed location for WEX’s new office is on Main Street in the Downs District. Courtesy Town of Scarborough

SCARBOROUGH — If approved, WEX, an international company founded in Maine, will add a new location in the Downs by 2022.

The Town Council held a workshop on Jan. 22 to discuss the project as well as a credit enhancement agreement of $150,000 a year for 15 years — a cumulative $2.25 million.

The project would be located on the proposed Main Street area in the Downs. It’s expected to employ 600 to 650 people.

There will be a public hearing on Feb. 5 for residents to offer comments and questions. The town councilors said that they are eager to hear what residents think.

Liam Summers of Holmes Road said that WEX would be a great addition to the town. However, he had concerns about the CEA process for other businesses that may want to move to Scarborough.

“I think the question I would have is: you’re a business looking at Scarborough, is the expectation that you’ll get a CEA?” he said. “Because if I were a business, that’s what I’d expect. So I’m wondering how that works in a ‘not-taking-winners’ kind of way.”

Another resident, David Dittmer, said that he has had a business in Scarborough for the past 12 years and was in favor of WEX and the CEA. A small business would not be seeking any sort of tax break.

Councilor Peter Hayes said that the council needs to discuss the CEA policy more.

“I don’t think we as a council have discussed what we’ll do with other businesses with regards to CEA’s,” he said. “It’s an important question we need to answer about another large entity. We have some work to do about where it makes sense and where it doesn’t.”

Council Chair Paul Johnson said that a policy has been in the works for about a year, and he expects the proposal to come in front of the Town Council soon.

Susan Hamill, a resident, said that she felt the CEA was “peanuts.”

“It’s only $150,000 per year for 15 years,” she said. “That’s not to say I don’t value every single penny of tax revenue that comes to this town. But compared to our whole town budget, this is nothing. I see it as a small price to pay to see a first class project like this come to Scarborough.”

“Passing on this would be a big gamble because we don’t know what will go in there,” said resident Matt Sither. “Taking this is a safe bet.”

Chair of the School Board, Leanne Kazilionis, said she is an employee of WEX and she noted the philanthropic work the company does. She’d love to see the business move into town.

WEX would be a catalyst in bringing more businesses to Haigis Parkway, said Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina.

“They are a fortune 500 company,” she said. “For them to choose to come to Scarborough is huge. Not only for the type they are, but for them to serve as an anchor for the type of development we want and need. … I will be pretty disturbed if we do not follow through and accept the CEA. I see nothing but upside.”

“I can count on my left hand how many companies I’d consider this for,” said Johnson. “WEX is one of them. There are three or four whales in Maine and WEX is one of them. That’s why we’re doing this.”

Councilor Betsy Gleysteen said that she wants to make sure that this is the best decision.

“WEX is a good deal compared to what?” she said.

A project of this size would draw in many students and residents, Gleysteen said, but growth isn’t necessarily something she’s seen the community want.

“The number one thing when I was running for office is that people want to slow down the residential growth,” she said. “But the growth is not inevitable. We have the ability and authority to control residential growth. I’d like to see us look at growth.”

In response to this concern, Caterina said, “I work in real estate and we’re getting a turnover, an inventory, but people are aging out of their houses. It’s got nothing to do with taxes. And guess who’s buying? People with families. It’s no guarantee that you’re not going to have families move in with kids. I see that sort of as a red herring. I pay taxes, too. Don’t forget. Everyone in this room pays taxes.

“(This offers) a good strong varied commercial base,” she continued. “That’s what we’re doing at the Downs and WEX will be an anchor for that.”

Councilor Don Hamill said that the public will be caught up on all the information about the project as quickly as possible.

“We need to be steady in our assessment in our advancement of this opportunity, be reasonable,” he said.

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