September 5, 2013

New company for old BNAS

BY STEVE MISTLER

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.

(Continued on page 2)

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