Former air base flies past five-year goals for recovery from shutdown

Portland Press Herald photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
Darryl Chase of STARC Systems works on a wall module at TechPlace, an emerging business at Brunswick Landing. Co-founder Bruce Bickford says the company is on pace to triple production and “TechPlace has been a great place to be.” The wall art remains from the former naval air base. Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

By Tux Turkel Staff Writer

BRUNSWICK — Inside a former Navy department store, online home furnishings retailer Wayfair is finishing a 52,000-square-foot makeover to accommodate up to 500 employees at a new contact center.

Where a mobile home park once stood, more than 150 contractors are erecting a $12 million Avita memory care facility that will employ 100.

What once was a 90,000-square-foot aircraft maintenance building now is called TechPlace, home to 26 early-stage businesses pursuing innovations from pharmaceuticals to performance clothing.

Near the executive airpark apron, a renewable energy plant is using methane gas from sewage sludge to make enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.

Five years ago Tuesday, the Brunswick Naval Air Station was decommissioned, capping 68 years of military presence here. It was the official end to a process that began in 2005, when the base was earmarked for closure. In 2009, the last P-3 Orion aircraft took off for its new home in Jacksonville, Florida, taking with it more than 5,000 military and civilian jobs and $140 million in direct buy clomid liquid annual payroll.

And as a deep national recession took hold, local residents could only wonder what might replace the economic impact of a Navy base, and when.

Five years later those answers are becoming clear, and the news is better than could have been hoped for in 2011.

Brunswick Landing, the business campus that is evolving from the former air station, has so far attracted 950 jobs, easily surpassing the 700 jobs that had been projected for the five-year mark in the base redevelopment plan. More than 90 companies have set up shop, bringing with them more than $50 million in annual payroll and $175 million in private investment.

If Wayfair reaches 500 jobs, if SaviLinx – a customer service contract company – adds 200 positions, as planned, and if a handful of other expansions come to fruition, Brunswick Landing will be on a path this year to host 1,600 jobs, a benchmark that hadn’t been expected until 10 years into redevelopment.

At this pace, Brunswick Landing can remain ahead of projections, said Steve Levesque, a former state economic development director. Levesque came here soon after the closure was first announced and now serves as executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which is overseeing the transformation.

“I think we have a real opportunity to have 4,000 to 5,000 jobs in the next 10 years,” he said.

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