Eastport council fields offer to buy the Boat School

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 16, 2010, at 8:24 p.m.

EASTPORT, Maine — A world-renowned luxury yacht manufacturer has proposed buying Eastport’s Boat School property for $850,000, a purchase that community leaders are applauding.

David E. Marlow, owner of Marlow Yachts, has manufacturing facilities in Florida and Asia, as well as a seasonal residence in Brooklin, Maine.

Marlow’s yachts reportedly range in price from $1.5 million to $3.6 million each, depending on the model, and the company has obtained many international awards for design and style.

Marlow presented his offer to Eastport city councilors in both open and closed sessions this week.

Marlow plans not only to create a state-of-the art yacht and boat manufacturing facility in Eastport, but has offered to upgrade the current two-year curriculum at the Boat School — now leased and managed by Husson University of Bangor — to a four-year program. He also has sweetened the pot by proposing to build a new wharf for public access, a scenic walkway, public bathrooms at the Deep Cove Road facility and downtown on Water Street and a maritime and boat building museum. But the heart of the project will be a composite construction facility and laboratory and a commercial vessel and yacht repair center.

“This is way beyond fiberglass, a mop and a bucket, painting the side of a mold and making a boat,” Eastport City Manager Jon Southern said Thursday. “This will be a world class facility.”

The sale could also move Eastport into a more secure future, bolstering town coffers and providing more than 100 new jobs.

Marlow is not seeking any tax incentives for the development. He has also offered to fund two local scholarships annually for the school, as well as provide benches, landscaping and water fountains in the downtown area.

He also suggested forming a steering committee that could look into establishing ferry service between Eastport, Lubec, Campobello and Deer Island, New Brunswick, to bolster the local economy.

“Though [this project’s] emphasis is on Eastport, there can be little argument to be made that its overall impact will be felt across Maine and, in some small measure, America,” Marlow told the council.

Marlow’s nine-page proposal was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Eastport City Councilors, who signed a resolution Wednesday night stating their support.

“This goes well beyond the Boat School,” Southern said Thursday. “This is the perfect solution for Eastport.” Southern said the city has been paying more than $150,000 for operating costs at the school, which the community no longer can afford.

Southern also called the purchase price “more than fair.”

The sale, however, now hinges on the state Legislature. The state-owned property was sold to the city of Eastport in 2007 through legislation, and it will take additional legislation to approve any sale, Southern said. State Rep. David Burns and Sen. Kevin Raye will be sponsoring emergency legislation, Southern said.

Marlow could not be reached Thursday for comment, but he told Southern Wednesday that he will work with Husson University to see if it wishes to remain as the educational sponsor of the school. “Husson really stepped up in 2007,” Southern said. “The school was not in its business plan, it is not a vocational college, and it is remote from their campus.”

But Husson is not the only option, Southern said, and Marlow is in a position to bring in other staff.

Julie Green, spokesperson for Husson University, said Marlow has not yet contacted the school to initiate any transition talks. “But we are anxious to know the details,” Green said Thursday. “Our concern is what is best for the [36] students we have there now.”

“This is the perfect solution for Eastport,” Southern said. “We could go five, 10 years down the road before we found a buyer for the property, but the Boat School wouldn’t be there.”

The majority of Eastporters want to see the Boat School remain, he said.

“There are thousands of boat building staff out of work,” Southern said. “By changing the Boat School to a four-year program, with apprentice work in a real boat yard, pushes those graduates to the top of the list.”

Marlow told the city council Wednesday night that the Boat School proposal was just the beginning of his involvement in economic development in Washington County.

“It is the genesis of an awakening and is by no means the limits of our interest and intention in and around Eastport,” he said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/12/16/business/eastport-council-fields-offer-to-buy-the-boat-school/ printed on December 21, 2014