OAKLAND — It’s been a decade since construction started on FirstPark, the high-tech business park covering 285 acres near Interstate 95.

Project officials at the time said they expected the park to become an economic development magnet, eventually attracting businesses that would create 3,000 high-quality jobs during a 20-year period.

FirstPark hasn’t reached those expectations — yet. There are just under 1,000 jobs throughout the park now, three-quarters of which come from the T-Mobile call center.

With FirstPark’s decade milestone in mind, backers of the park are attempting to “re-introduce” the project by pushing it not just as a regional business attraction, but a statewide one, too.

At a meeting April 11 at T-Mobile, FirstPark officials unveiled their renewed efforts to an audience of area legislators and municipal officials. Officials portrayed the park as part of a broader effort, most notably highlighted by Gov. Paul LePage, to help businesses create jobs.

“The fact is, most people look at Maine as a tough place to do business,” Craig Nelson, president of the Kennebec Regional Development Authority, the park’s governing body. “That’s what we’re here to change. It’s all about investing in the future for jobs.”

As part of the new push, FirstPark has revamped its website with new locator maps, more information, including minutes of committee meetings, and will soon feature new promotional videos, according to Diana Rafuse, FirstPark’s executive director.

Two of the videos were shown at the T-Mobile meeting. One features a testimonial from LePage, the former mayor of Waterville, who touts FirstPark as “the best-kept secret in Maine.”

Andrew Nelson, director of consulting services for Portland-based CB Richard Ellis, said his firm is working with FirstPark to refine its marketing strategies. For instance, Nelson said, his firm has contracted with another one to identify growing companies throughout the Northeast and is focused on attracting them to FirstPark, where people can commute to jobs from an hour away or more.

“We have a list of 150 companies that have expressed growing interest and we have specific marketing efforts at them,” Nelson said.

The sales pitch isn’t easy, Nelson said, as most companies view Maine — and New England in general — as a costly place to do business, primarily because of utility costs. But most companies don’t cite any particular obstacles to opening up in Maine.

“It’s very much a perception thing,” Nelson said. “If we can help change that perception, we’d get more looks.”

Rafuse said there are several items on FirstPark’s “to-do” list, including the creation of a new strategic plan, developing a regional economic strategy with local organizations, and building stronger ties with the state’s policy makers and local business owners.

There’s still a ways for FirstPark to go on its march to fill all of its 24 lots. Nelson said the park has plenty of room for new businesses and four large lots remain undeveloped alongside Interstate 95.

Also attending the meeting were John Butera, LePage’s senior economic adviser, Department of Economic & Community Development Commissioner Philip Congdon, House Speaker Robert Nutting, of Oakland, and former Sen. Peter Mills, of Cornville, now head of the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Mills, who is also the park’s treasurer, recalled how planning for a high-tech business park started in the late 1990s and how the Oakland park has become a valuable asset for the 24 communities who share the park’s costs.

The communities — 12 apiece in Kennebec and Somerset counties — in turn receive revenue as the park lots are developed and filled. The latest figures for the contributions and revenue were not available.

It’s especially important for the area’s more poorer, rural communities, he said.

“You’re looking at Cornville’s only economic development program right here,” Mills told the audience at T-Mobile.

And it’s not lost on anyone that most of the jobs created by FirstPark where inside the very building they were meeting in. In 2005, T-Mobile invested $17 million to build a call center at FirstPark, selecting the location over several others in the country.

It’s still uncertain what impact, if any, the pending acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T could have on the call center, although AT&T says it has no plans to close the facility following the merger.

Mills said T-Mobile’s center at FirstPark has been a boon, but may have also had another short-term consequence for such skilled job-seekers.

“They swept into town and had a building up, and it kind of sucked the oxygen out of the employment market,” he said. “But this call center has the least turnover and the greatest success. I hope AT&T will expand this one, rather than close it.”

Fairfield Town Manager Joshua Reny said FirstPark has been big strides since it opened and has been a big benefit to Fairfield. The town pays about $30,000 in its FirstPark dues, he said, and receives about $18,000 back in revenue.

“The payment is high, but as sites get developed and value is created, those numbers have slowly gone up and I expect will continue to go up,” Reny said. “It is 10 years old now and it was exciting when it was first being built and everybody in the community was talking about it. Like anything as time goes by, they’re not thinking about it as much, so I think it’s really important to remind people this is a still major economic development feature in our local community.”

Scott Monroe — 861-9239

[email protected]

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