LIMESTONE, Maine — The Loring Development Authority has been awarded a $1.1 million federal grant to finance critical repairs and infrastructure upgrades of water distribution and treatment systems serving the Loring Commerce Centre.
Members of Maine’s congressional delegation on Friday announced the award from the Economic Development Administration.
The EDA said the improvements are necessary to ensure continued and improved water flow and to allow for the retention, expansion and growth of businesses in the area. The project will help retain more than 1,300 jobs, according to LDA and EDA officials.
“These are the types of investments in our communities that are critical to saving and retaining jobs,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in a prepared statement. “Making sure our centers of commerce have the infrastructure in place to retain and attract business is a necessity. But often times the upgrades are too expensive and out of reach for many communities to take on themselves. This investment by the EDA will help this project cross the finish line and provide a much needed boost to the region’s economy.”
The LDA is located on the former Loring Air Force Base, which closed in 1994.
Carl Flora, president and CEO of the Loring Development Authority, said Friday he was “very pleased” to hear the news.
“We first started seeking funding back in 2009,” said the CEO. “We will provide matching funds for this project, and it is really something that has needed to be done for years.”
Flora wrote a letter to Michaud as the congressman was working to build support for the EDA grant and speaking out against massive cuts that the agency was facing.
In the letter, Flora noted that as a result of widespread contamination of the groundwater by the Air Force, wells cannot be used as a source for drinking water. He said that Loring-based employers must rely on the off-site water treatment facility built by the Air Force in the late 1950s. Flora told Michaud that a failure of the water treatment system would place nearly all Loring jobs in jeopardy.
The $1.1 million will assist the LDA to make improvements to the water treatment and distribution system and allow the plant to meet current and future drinking water standards, he said.
Flora isn’t sure when work will begin because he just got word of the grant, but he would like it to begin during this construction season.
“This investment by EDA will allow for improvements and upgrades to the infrastructure at Loring, which in turn, will help encourage further business growth,” the senators said in a joint statement. “Loring will continue to be an economic driver for the region, creating good jobs in Aroostook County.”
Since the closure of Loring Air Force Base, the LDA has brought more than 1,300 new jobs into the Loring Commerce Centre. Prior to the base closure, it was home to 1,100 employees.