BRUNSWICK — The agency that’s redeveloping the former Brunswick Naval Air Station is taking another stab at a deal with an aircraft refurbishing company.
The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority announced Wednesday that it has a lease agreement with Tempus Jets, which overhauls jets and has eight locations in the United States. The authority’s director, Steve Levesque, said the company will move its current Northeast location in Newport News, Va., to what’s now called Brunswick Landing, the site of the decommissioned 3,200-acre Navy base.
Tempus Jets is based in South Carolina. Levesque said the company has agreed to a one-year lease to operate in nearly 35,000 square feet of space, with extension options that probably will lengthen the lease.
Tempus Jets will share space in the relatively new Hangar 6 with Kestrel Aviation, a startup aircraft manufacturer; and Flightlevel Aviation, which provides fueling, parking, maintenance and chartering at the airport at Brunswick Landing.
Tempus Jets refurbishes corporate jets. Hangar 6, which housed large P-3 Orion submarine hunter aircraft for the Navy, will enable the company to work on larger jets, such as the 747.
The company’s CEO, Scott Terry, flew P-3 Orions at the base as a Navy pilot. He indicated that the company may seek an additional 100,000 square feet of space if its expansion goes as planned.
Levesque said Tempus Jets already has begun moving $7.5 million worth of equipment to Brunswick Landing. Ten to 12 employees will move from the company’s Virginia location. Tempus Jets says it plans to hire 25 full-time workers within the next four months and 50 next year. Employment could go as high as 200 jobs, Levesque told The Associated Press.
In 2007, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority engaged in protracted lease negotiations with Oxford Aviation, an overhaul outfit at Oxford County Regional Airport.
The company promised as many as 200 jobs and held a job fair at the base, attracting hundreds of applicants.
Despite public support for Oxford Aviation by Gov. John Baldacci, the lease negotiations failed after questions were raised about the company’s performance, including its ability to win public grants and tax breaks.
On Wednesday, Gov. Paul LePage lauded the Tempus Jets deal in a press statement, saying his administration worked to “line-up various business incentives and programs.”
Doug Ray, a spokesman with the Department of Economic and Community Development, said the state and the redevelopment agency moved “at the speed of business” to complete the deal within a month.
Ray said the department already has certified Tempus Jets as eligible for the state’s Pine Tree Development Zone designation, which provides corporate and sales tax exemptions to companies that create “quality jobs.”
Those jobs are defined as having salaries and benefits that are more than the per capita average in the county where the company operates. In Cumberland County, that means total compensation of greater than $45,147 a year.
Pine Tree Development Zones were adopted under Baldacci. The program’s effectiveness as a job creator has been questioned.
In 2006, the Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability reviewed 46 incentive programs and warned that the state could be investing in programs that “are ineffective or no longer necessary.”
The office gave Pine Tree Development Zones a mixed review.
Since 2003, the program has cost the state more than $46 million in tax revenue. Baldacci certified more than 300 businesses during his two terms as governor, according to an analysis by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. The LePage administration has certified at least 37 since taking office in 2011.
Levesque said Tempus Jets so far is using only the Pine Tree Development Zone incentive. It could seek other incentives later, such as state-backed loans or federal development grants and credits.
“I commend our Department of Economic & Community Development for working so closely with Tempus Jets and the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority to respond quickly and capably to meet the company’s needs and to help pave the way for this exciting new project,” LePage said in a prepared statement.
Tempus Jets was founded in 2007. In addition to aircraft refurbishing, it is involved in aircraft sales and chartering.
Terry, the company’s CEO, said the deal could prompt the company to expand further at Brunswick.
“It is our intention to do business in Maine for a long time to come,” he said in a prepared statement.
The deal could be another positive development for the Midcoast Redevelopment Authority, which says it has created 220 jobs at the former Navy base while drawing about $100 million in private investment. It has suffered setbacks, too, related to a larger involvement with Kestrel Aviation, the manufacturing startup.
Kestrel Aviation’s arrival at Brunswick Landing in 2010 was lauded by public officials and the redevelopment agency as a key development in an effort to replace the estimated 4,800 jobs and $330 million in annual income associated with the Navy, which completed the base closure in 2011.
Kestrel Aviation negotiated with state officials about a proposed manufacturing facility that would have provided hundreds of jobs, but the company instead set up shop in Wisconsin, which effectively defeated Maine in a bidding war by offering larger incentives.
Kestrel Aviation still employs about 35 people in Brunswick through a 20-year lease with the redevelopment authority, which receives about $85,000 a year in rent from the company.
Wednesday’s announcement by Tempus Jets was attended by U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, who is running for governor.
Maine’s U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said in a joint statement, “Today’s announcement is not only fantastic news for the Brunswick area, but it’s also a tribute to the exceptional work of the Maine Regional Redevelopment Authority, which has striven tirelessly to transform the former Brunswick Naval Air Station into a center of economic innovation.”
Steve Mistler — 791-6345