Since 1943, the state of Maine was home to the Brunswick Naval Air Station, a training facility for pilots heading off to Europe during World War 2. They operated under the motto: “Built for Business.” Today, that slogan has taken on a new meaning.
In 2005, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that the base would close.
As the town’s largest employer, Brunswick braced to lose nearly 3700 jobs. When the base finally closed in 2011, 6500 workers and their families relocated to a new facility in Jacksonville, Florida.
But that is not where the story of Brunswick Naval Air Station ends. In fact, its next chapter was just about to begin.
Officials with the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority (MRRA) realized that with some modifications, the property could be repurposed as a business hub for small businesses and entrepreneurs, including a technology incubator later dubbed TechPlace.
They received their first grant in 2010 through EDA’s Public Works program, which provided $1.7 million for infrastructure upgrades, including building demolition, utility metering, hangar upgrades and more.
In 2013, MRRA applied for an EDA Make it in America Challenge grant and was ultimately awarded more than $500,000 to create TechPlace. MRRA also received a $200,000 grant from EDA to explore green energy production, including wind, solar, geothermal and biomass projects to create a self-sufficient net zero carbon campus.
In 2018 and 2021, MRRA received additional EDA funding to replace aging infrastructure, including upgrades to three sewer pump stations ($1.2 million) and to the HVAC and lighting control systems ($642,500). These projects have since been completed.
“This redevelopment effort wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without EDA support,” said Kristine Logan, MRRA Executive Director.
“We identified the tools necessary for local startups to get off the ground and have made those resources available, including 3D printing services, lab space, and a machine/welding shop. Many of our tenants represent the biotech sector, for whom we have also provided incubators,” she added.
TechPlace, the largest technology and business incubator north of Boston, is now open and thriving. Offering close to 95,000 square feet of state-of-the-art commercial and industrial space, the facility includes co-working offices, manufacturing labs, warehousing and more. It is currently home to 36 businesses and 125 employees, with more expected ahead.
“TechPlace was a great way to use a large building space to meet the needs of several small businesses,” said Logan, who was recently named a Woman to Watch by Mainebiz Magazine.
“The project has proven so successful that the town of Lincoln is looking to replicate our model in their location with a focus on agriculture. Facilities such as TechPlace are a great way to grow businesses in Maine,” she concluded.
In addition to biotech, the facility is also optimized to meet the needs of other industries. Aviation and aerospace, information technology, renewable energy, and light manufacturing, among others, are finding new opportunities in Maine. A current biotech tenant is using salmon blood as a re-agent in the development of medical testing products.
A bioscience company has developed a sustainable method for harvesting oysters, using one-tenth of the ocean space normally required.
Thanks to the EDA, Brunswick, Maine, is not just historically “Built for Business”– it’s built to stay and support a thriving regional economy for decades to come.
All photos courtesy of USEDA.