BRUNSWICK, Maine — Runways and hangars at Brunswick Naval Air Station are being turned over to a civilian redevelopment authority months before the base closes to speed business development and job creation, officials said Monday.
The Navy on Monday conveyed the land to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which plans to open the twin runways to general aviation on April 2 under the management of Norwood, Mass. -based Flight Level Aviation. It’ll be called Brunswick Executive Airport.
“The commitment and hard work that led to today’s conveyance sends a message to Brunswick, sends a message to the entire state that Maine is now open for business,” Gov. Paul LePage told a gathering on the base.
LePage joined in hailing the cooperation among federal agencies, members of Congress, the U.S. Navy, the redevelopment authority, and state and local officials for working together to bring about the transfer of property long before the Navy’s closing ceremony on May 31.
“This is what can happen when people of vision collaborate with people of resources,” said Amy Corbett, administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration in New England.
An aircraft manufacturer, information technology company and community college already announced plans to locate at the base, and a prominent economist has predicted the base will employ 2,000 to 3,000 people — and perhaps twice that — within two decades.
The Navy’s early completion of an environmental impact statement allowed the conveyance of property on Monday. The transfer of the 715 acres of runways, hangars and aviation facilities will become official in about two weeks when a deed is filed, and another 280 acres will be conveyed over the next few years, said Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority.
Monday’s ceremony was held in a cavernous three-bay hangar that was once home to the last P-3 Orion patrol aircraft, which departed in late 2009.
Parked in one end of the hangar, and looking tiny in the 300,000-square-foot building, was a JP-10 carbon composite turboprop business aircraft that Kestrel Aircraft Co. plans to build. Kestrel plans to invest $100 million and employ as many as 300 people. Other tenants who have committed to the property include Southern Maine Community College and Resilient Communications Corp., an information technology company.
Before the decision to close the base, the Navy resurfaced the runways, overhauled the control tower and refurbished most of the base housing to the tune of more than $100 million. The FAA will retain the control tower, but much of the remainder will be developed. About 1,570 acres would be reserved for recreation, open space and natural areas.
For some, it was difficult at first to accept the Base Closure and Realignment Commission’s decision in 2005 to shutter the base, an economic engine for the region. But Capt. William Fitzgerald, commanding officer for the past three years, said it’s heartening to see that the community is accepting the decision and getting behind the redevelopment.
“I don’t think it’s bittersweet at all,” he said. “They’re getting great facilities that they can redevelop the community with, and the region, and the state. And it’s all positive.”