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March 21, 2016 Inside the Notebook

There's much to celebrate at Brunswick Landing

A little more than a decade ago, as editor of Brunswick's hometown newspaper, The Times Record, I wrote with more than a little disbelief the headline on Aug. 24, 2005, telling readers the Brunswick Naval Air Station was among dozens of military bases approved for closure by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

No question: Hard times were coming our way. And so they did, compounded by the deepest recession this country has seen since the 1930s. Some businesses folded. Hardly anyone was unscathed, including the newspaper I worked for, which began eliminating newsroom jobs to make up for declining revenues due to lost subscribers and declining advertising revenues.

But something else happened as well. Our community rolled up its sleeves and took on the real work of rebuilding the local economy through a massive redevelopment of the 3,300-acre Navy base after it closed in 2011.

Those are the memories that have come roaring back to me these past few weeks, triggered by the recent announcement that Wayfair Inc., a Boston-based home furnishings e-commerce company, is bringing 500 jobs to Brunswick Landing. That was quickly followed by the March 11 announcement that SaviLinx, a call center company already located there, would be adding 200 new jobs to support a large contract extending its work for an insurance services provider. That's 700 new jobs announced in just the past two months!

Without question Brunswick Landing's redevelopment is accelerating after gaining traction thanks to the persistent efforts of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority team ably led by Executive Director Steve Levesque, who've been patiently executing the master reuse plan created by local citizens during the six years between the 2005 BRAC announcement and the base's official closure on May 31, 2011.

Steve has always done a great job updating MRRA's scorecard on how the redevelopment effort is going. Here's a quick summary for the year ended Dec. 31, 2015, identifying some of the net economic gains since the closure:

  • 82 businesses and organizations at Brunswick Landing and Topsham Commerce Park employing 822 people. That's more than double the 2015 goal set in 2009 and exceeding the 714 civilian jobs lost when the based closed.
  • More than $200 million in new private sector investment.
  • More than $74.52 million in new property valuation in Brunswick and $2.47 million in Topsham, generating $2.1 million in new 2016 property tax revenues in Brunswick and $44,271 in Topsham.
  • Construction begun in 2015 of a $10 million 1-megawatt anaerobic digester power generator capable of producing renewable power to serve half the needs of Brunswick Landing businesses during peak hours. It also allows MRRA to continue providing stable electricity prices from 100% green energy sources at lower-than-market prices.

Brunswick Landing's redevelopment effort far outpaces other bases closed during the 2005 BRAC round, earning Steve a well-deserved Community Leadership Award by the Association of Defense at its 2015 annual conference in Washington, D.C. But I'm fairly certain he'd be the first to admit that the foundation for Brunswick Landing's successes was laid by dozens of local business leaders and citizens who didn't wait for the last P-3 Orion to leave the base before launching the base redevelopment effort.

MRRA'S successes aren't due to luck, and its work is far from over in recovering fully the 6,500 jobs that were lost in BNAS's closure. But there's much to celebrate as I see mounting evidence Brunswick Landing is already a significant contributor to our local economy — with aviation, manufacturing, technology development, education, senior housing, green energy and recreation playing important roles.

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