AUGUSTA, Maine — A high-tech ship-modeling operation is relocating from India to a soon-to-close naval air station in coastal Brunswick, creating 30 well-paying jobs with hopes of expanding to 100, Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday.
The American Bureau of Shipping plans to begin operations of a computer-based ship-modeling center July 1 at the Brunswick Naval Air Station, which is slated to close May 31. Redevelopment officials already have secured commitments from several other high-tech companies that plan to create more than 500 jobs there, the latest from ABS.
The new jobs are welcomed as the base closure drains away 6,500 jobs, a prospect that jarred local officials and prompted an aggressive redevelopment effort. In a small state like Maine, with 1.3 million people, the creation of even a dozen new jobs may be seen as a significant economic boost.
“These are good-paying jobs that put the spotlight on Maine and the quality craftsmanship we offer,” LePage said at a State House news conference also attended by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine. “It’s a class company.”
Collins said ABS’ announcement continues a four-century shipbuilding tradition in Maine, which started at coastal Popham and has continued for generations at the Bath Iron Works Navy contractor and numerous smaller operations along the coast.
The ABS modeling center will create computer-aided design models of client vessels. The models are used throughout the life of the vessels for a range of purposes, such as verifying the strength of the hull.
“These are great jobs, and I’m hopeful that as ABS sees what Maine can provide that other jobs will follow,” Collins said.
The not-for-profit organization provides classification services to builders, owners and operators of ships and marine-related facilities in 70 countries to make sure their vessels are up to proper legal and safety standards. ABS, founded in 1862 and headquartered in Houston, has about 3,000 total employees.
ABS Chairman Robert Somerville said a lease has been signed for the new center and “we’re set to go.”
He said the operation is being relocated from India for several reasons, including a Maine work ethic that he says “is second to none” and a high volume of work with the U.S. Navy. Somerville said several cities in the United States and overseas were considered for the operation, and Brunswick, about 25 miles northeast of Portland, came out on top.
Another draw, Somerville said, is the expansive research being conducted in Maine in hopes of developing offshore wind power.
“The location makes a lot of sense to us at all levels,” said Somerville, a native of Maine.
Models for ABS-classed commercial vessels have been created overseas while Navy work has been conducted at Houston. With the opening of the Brunswick site, all ABS modeling will be done in one location.