LIMESTONE, Maine — The Maine Military Authority has a highly skilled, productive work force with the ability to diversify, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Friday, and those skills are what MMA officials and members of the state’s congressional delegation hope will help secure adequate work for the facility in the future.
The Republican senator was joined Friday afternoon by several top Army procurement officials from Washington, D.C., on a tour of the Maine Military Authority. The tour was followed by a closed-door meeting.
The Maine Military Authority employs 370 workers who refurbish vehicles for the Army National Guard. Last month, Collins secured an assurance from Dr. Joseph Westphal, undersecretary of the Army, to send representatives to Aroostook County to explore options for new work at the Limestone facility.
Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, has worked on behalf of the facility before. Last year, the senator worked with other members of the delegation to secure $20 million in a defense spending bill to sustain jobs at MMA.
Because of federal cuts and the downturn in the economy, MMA has not secured as many National Guard contracts as in past years. Officials at MMA have been aware of the decreased workload for some time and have been trying to find other types of work to replace what has been lost from the Guard.
Collins, who has been working to assist MMA in its effort, wanted to bring officials from Washington to MMA so they could get “a better understanding of the work that goes on” in Limestone.
Among those who joined Collins were Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, acting director of the Army National Guard; Kathleen Marin, director of installation services for the Army’s Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management; and Kathryn Condon, special assistant to Westphal.
“I am proud of the work that MMA has done,” Collins said at the start of the tour. “We have come here to explore opportunities for work. We want to sustain the workload here into the future. I wanted those with me to see firsthand what we can do here.”
During the tour, Collins and the visiting officials mingled with MMA employees who were working on Humvees and their components. The visitors talked with workers as they welded, changed parts and repaired brake lines.
As she walked through the facility, Collins noted that MMA provides high-quality, low-cost work for the Army. She added that MMA consistently performs this work at a lower cost than the Army’s own depots.
Robert Jandreau, director of operations at MMA, led the group through the facility’s 400,000 square feet of industrial space. He talked about the skills of the MMA employees and the work they have done for more than a decade.
Terry Susee, director of production for MMA, pointed out that the facility is able to adapt to meet the needs of the military.
“There are many different models of Humvees in the Army and the National Guard inventory,” he said Friday. “We can take any model of Humvee and convert it to any model that they need at any given time.”
Susee and Collins noted that MMA is the only facility able to do such model conversion.
Carpenter was making his first trip to MMA and to Maine. He said MMA has a tremendous reputation, noting that the facility has refurbished almost 10,000 Humvees for the National Guard.
The National Guard is in the midst of an ongoing process of assessing its equipment needs, Carpenter said.
“We just want to get the best product for the best price,” he noted.
Brig. Gen. Brent Boyles, assistant adjutant general for the Maine Army National Guard, said employees at the Limestone complex do much more than refurbish Humvees. He explained that workers in Limestone and at the MMA facility in Caribou also rebuild motors, repair Army bridge boats and refurbish 5-ton trucks, Mobile Kitchen Trailers and other equipment.
Officials did not go into significant detail about what sort of work could be secured for MMA in the future, although Collins mentioned that work on rescue vehicles could be an option.
At the same time, Collins said she believes MMA employees are ready to do any sort of work that comes their way.
“There is lots of ingenuity here among the workers,” she said Friday. “I am confident that this facility can handle anything.”
U.S. 2nd District Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, also worked to secure funding for Humvee maintenance in Limestone. He did not attend the tour of MMA, but said in a press release that he is “confident the visiting officials will recognize the great potential in Limestone for future projects.”
Michaud also pledged to continue to “work to support an increased workload so that we can create and maintain jobs in the area.”
BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY BRIDGET BROWN
Kevin Saggese, a mechanical technician, works on electronic components in a Humvee at Maine Military Authority in Limestone on Friday. The facility employs 370 workers and refurbishes about 25 Humvees a month.