FORT KENT, Maine — Municipal officials hope there’s a potential buyer or lessee out there for an empty building in the town’s industrial park.
Built in 1983, the Fort Kent potato storage and packaging facility originally was intended for use as a cooperative storage facility by local farmers grouped together as the St. John Valley Potato Growers Association. Over the years, as the number of farming operations dropped in Fort Kent, the building evolved into a home base for business ventures.
Most recently, the 13,300-square-foot, town-owned warehouse type structure was occupied by Irving Specialties, a subsidiary of Irving Woodlands based out of New Brunswick. The company manufactured cedar products, including flower boxes and decorative fencing made from local lumber and employed up to 20 people for 21 years.
“Their last day of operation was at the end of April,” Town Manager Don Guimond said. “The Town Council is now accepting proposals on a sale or lease agreement for the building.”
The bulk of the $900,000 construction costs for the building in 1983 came through a $621,320 Economic Development Agency Grant that was combined with pledges from farmers in the co-op and in-kind contributions from the town.
“The way it’s structured, it’s in five separate and distinct areas,” Guimond said. “There is a large center area and two bays on either side so it lends itself to several divided areas depending on the occupant’s needs.”
The building is also adjacent to a scale house and rail access.
“Irving Specialties have been a good tenant for 20-plus years,” Guimond said. “They provided jobs and used raw, local products.”
He added Irving left the building clean and in excellent condition ready for the next tenants.
“The best-case scenario is someone comes in, buys it and starts a business that puts people back to work,” Guimond said. “We are ready to work with whoever is interested in partnership with the Northern Maine Development Commission and the state.”
Guimond said there has been some interest in the facility but no solid proposal yet.
“It’s a tough time to fill or sell a piece of commercial property,” he said. “But the town does not owe any money on it, so it’s not a drain on the taxpayers, at least in the short term.”