As I write this last message and transition from the role as the Executive Director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority (MRRA), I certainly have some mixed emotions. As some may know, I have been with the organization since soon after the decision was made to close NAS Brunswick. I was the first person hired to oversee the development of the Reuse Master Plan for the Base properties, which was a terrific rewarding experience, in itself. That planning process involved a robust public engagement process which resulted in a publicly accepted future-oriented plan, of which its vision is being implemented today.

As I close out this chapter and reflect upon the past 40-plus years, managing the NAS Brunswick redevelopment effort has clearly been the capstone of my professional career. Redeveloping a closed military installation is like no other planning or economic development project I ever encountered previously.

It has unique issues and challenges that are not typical to other development initiatives. This project allowed me to apply all the skills that I have learned in my career and provided me an opportunity to learn a lot more, and also challenged me in numerous ways. It certainly has been the most fulfilling professional experience of my career and I am proud I had a role in helping to help guide the amazing transformation of this old Navy base into the great new place it is becoming!

These large-scale military installation redevelopment projects do not just happen by themselves or by trying to “go-it-alone.” It takes a significant concerted effort by many entities to achieve success. I am both mindful and thankful of all the partnerships that have been forged to help make this project a success. The continued support and collaborative partnerships with multiple entities, namely, the Towns of Brunswick and Topsham, the state of Maine and the federal government, have been critical to what we have achieved to date and will be needed into the future.

I’m so thankful for all the business entities who believed in our plan vision of the former base and have invested nearly $1 billion into the properties and their businesses, resulting in new employment creation of over 2,500 jobs, over $200 million in new property valuation, resulting in over $30 million of new State and local real estate and income taxes, and the full occupation and expansion of the housing stock (estimated to be over 4,000 residents), all since NAS Brunswick closed in 2011. This last census shows Brunswick now having nearly 22,000 residents and Topsham approaching 10,000 citizens.

We have certainly come a long way in just ten years. With the help of all the entities described above, we believe that the local, regional and state economic impact of the redevelopment effort now exceeds the economic value that existed when NAS Brunswick was fully operational.

In 2007, the Maine State Planning Office produced an economic analysis documenting the expected impacts of the base closure. Among its findings, the report projected: the loss of 6,500 direct jobs; a nearly $400 million reduction in gross state product; a loss of $140 million in annual payroll income; 2,300 housing units coming onto the market at once; population drop of more than 7,000 residents; reduction of $1.7 million in federal aid to local schools. Certainly, a bleak outlook by any measure, of which most were realized, but for a truly brief time. While there is still quite a lot of exciting things to come, I believe we can now call this redevelopment effort a success

Lastly and most importantly, I want to thank the MRRA staff and Board members (past and present) for their unwavering dedication to this project. While some have moved on, they all shared a common goal of making this project a unique contribution to the growth of Maine’s innovation economy.

This staff is the most talented and dedicated group of professionals I have ever had the opportunity of working with and I will be forever indebted to their friendship and contributions to this effort. As my former boss and current US Senator from Brunswick is fond of saying, “There is nothing more gratifying than accomplishing remarkable things with really smart talented people that you like.” And there are great new exciting things to come with Kristine Logan at the helm.

So long and thank you for the opportunity to be part of this wonderful effort.

Steve Levesque is the executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority. He is retiring at the end of the year.

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