NORRIDGEWOCK — Athletic shoe manufacturer New Balance plans to hire 40 more workers by the end of the month, and a possible conversion to natural gas might mean even more jobs in the future, a representative of the company told residents Monday night.

New Balance is one step closer to cutting its energy costs after residents voted at the annual Town Meeting to approve the town’s first tax increment financing district.

John Campbell, director of corporate services at New Balance, spoke in favor of the tax break for a natural gas pipeline developer.

“We are a partner in the neighborhood here. We work with suppliers, local folks, local stores, to support our operations,” Campbell said. “This will secure us, to keep us going.”

Specifically, he said, natural gas could help New Balance stay competitive by combining its oil, propane and electricity systems, saving 50 to 60 percent on its energy costs.

Given overwhelming approval by residents, the TIF district will allow the town to redirect a percentage of the new property taxes generated by the pipeline back to developer Kennebec Valley Gas Co. to help the financing of a pipeline through central Maine.

The district also will act as a tax shelter, so increased property values won’t result in increased tax commitments. The town can use the percentage of new property taxes it keeps for economic development.

Selectmen announced their personal support for the tax break, which would return 80 percent of new property taxes to Kennebec Valley Gas during the first 10 years of the pipeline’s life and 20 percent to the town.

In years 11 through 15, 60 percent would return to the developer and 40 percent to the town.

Selectmen chairman Ron Frederick said he originally didn’t like the idea of a TIF, but he changed his mind after learning of the potential benefit to local businesses, such as New Balance.

Selectman Laura Lorette, who owns a diner on Main Street, said it’s important for people to think of the bigger picture.

“By giving us in the central Maine area another option, it is only going to hopefully reduce energy costs and operating costs … and whether you personally are going to benefit … I think we have to look at the larger picture.”

About 150 people out of about 2,380 registered voters attended the meeting at Mill Stream Elementary School.

 

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