AUGUSTA — A state senator said it’s “really inappropriate” for Carbonite to slice its workforce in half over the past three years by shipping some jobs overseas while getting a state tax break for hiring in Maine.

Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, said he was shocked Wednesday to read in the Sun Journal that Carbonite, a data-protection software company, was sending customer service positions to Jamaica as they became vacant in Maine.

He said the sort of “slow drip” job loss was clearly “flying under the radar” and suggested officials eye revisions to the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Pine Tree Development Zone program to keep an eye on these sorts of changes.

Libby, the assistant Democratic leader in the Senate, said that even if Carbonite is collecting a smaller tax break because it has fewer employees, he’s not sure it makes sense to provide firms with any tax incentives if they are shuffling jobs out of the state.

The company receives 80 percent of Maine state income tax withholdings on “qualified employees” for 10 years, according to its acceptance letter. Workers included under the provision must be full-time and earn above-average wages to qualify.

According to its annual Pine Tree reports, Carbonite had 368 qualified jobs as recently as 2015. That number dropped to 226 in 2016. Now there are fewer than 180 at its Lewiston office on Mollison Way.

Libby said he toured the office after it won a Best Places to Work in Maine award in 2015.

“It seemed like a great place,” the senator said, with happy, excited employees and a nice working environment.

That’s why it is disappointing, Libby said, that after getting tax breaks and recognition it is moving operations, bit by bit, to Jamaica.

Hoping to improve customer satisfaction, the Boston-based Carbonite put a tech call center in Lewiston seven years ago after it opted to bring the jobs back to the United States from a vendor in India.

When it initially applied for the Pine Tree Development Zone Program in 2011, the company estimated it would spend $1 million on building improvements and outfitting the office, as well as another $1 million for training employees.

It grew every year until 2015, when its workforce in Lewiston peaked. It took a sharp downturn in numbers in 2016 that has continued since.

The firm said, though, it plans to retain good jobs in Lewiston for the long haul.

Libby said that looking at the big picture, it’s hard to justify giving tax breaks to companies that are reducing the number of workers and moving their positions to a low-wage country overseas.

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