Maine Military Authority — its future uncertain — lays off 54 workers

BY Laurie Schreiber

Courtesy / Maine Military Authority
Courtesy / Maine Military Authority
After completing its work to fulfill a contract with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Maine Military Authority has laid off 54 employees. The state-operated military authority, which is located at located at the Loring Commerce Center in Limestone, is shutting down operations — at least for now.

After completing its work to fulfill a contract with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Maine Military Authority has laid off 54 employees. The state-operated military authority is shutting down operations — at least for now.
“We won’t have anyone at the facility until our next step, and I can’t say when that is,” Maine Military Authority CEO Tim Corbett, told Mainebiz in a phone interview.
Final layoffs will be occurring today (Aug. 30), he said.
Corbett said the layoffs, for now anyway, although comprising the total workforce, does not mean a total shutdown of the authority.
“We’re still seeking contracts,” he said, adding that he could not talk about specifics at this time.
The military authority is located at the Loring Commerce Center, which is the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone.
Some of the laid-off employees have already received job offers, he said. That includes with Loring Industries, which is also in the commerce center, and with manufacturers in the area.
”By and large, our folks seem to be finding employment,” he said.
That could pose some hiring complexity if and when the authority receives another contract, he said.

Maine Military Authority was created by the state Legislature in 2000 as a quasi-governmental business to repair and overhaul National Guard equipment, and peaked around 2008 with over 500 people occupying nine buildings, Carl Flora, president and CEO of the Loring Development Authority, the organization that owns, manages and oversees the redevelopment of Loring Commerce Centre, told Mainebiz earlier this month. 
The Maine Military Authority, a quasi-governmental businesses that refurbishes military and mass-transit vehicles, grew to occupy half a million square feet of space. But around 2010, it scaled back to less than half of its square footage and shed 450 employees, as the National Guard pared contracts. In 2014, it took on a contract worth $18.5 million to overhaul Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority buses.
That contract involved overhauling overhaul 32 transit buses. The project was more costly than initially anticipated, so in 2017 Gov. Paul LePage approved a $7 million rescue package.
“The authority has had a great history,” Corbett said. “But we’ve seen the market change dramatically.”
The loss of the National Guard contract was a blow, he said. And the refurbishing side of the business, like for Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, ebbs and flows, he said.
“There’s not a lot of that work out there,” he said.
The military authority has also taken in work to refurbish Maine school buses. But, Corbett said, “There’s not enough volume. That’s the bottom line. You need sufficient volume to make it viable. We’ be been getting from two to six school buses per year. We’d need 10 or 12 per month to cover our expenses.”
Downsizing the space is not an option, he said.
“We have the building set up and it was designed for larger-scale work,” he said.
Is there a particular time-frame the military authority has to meet in order to know it will be able to reboot?
“Not really,” Corbett said, but added, “The sooner we find new opportunities, the better.”
According to a Maine Department of Education news release, as part of the process of winding down operations, the military authority will no longer be able to contract for school bus refurbishment, and has reached out to school districts to inform them of the changes in their operations. Districts that were considering refurbishment services may be eligible for the Maine school bus purchase program, the news release stated.