Swedish firm breaks ground at former Brunswick Naval Air Station

Posted June 22, 2011, at 10:36 p.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Top company officials from Molnlycke Health Care told a crowd of about 60 that their planned Brunswick manufacturing plant represents a key strategic move, as the skyrocketing medical supplies producer looks to further gain a foothold in the U.S. market.

Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station represented the kickoff to the first new construction project in the civilian redevelopment of the base, which closed as a military installation on May 31 and already hosts several new private tenants.

Some of those who spoke Tuesday to celebrate the proposed 79,000-square-foot research and production facility, in which more than 100 new jobs are likely to be housed, made a point to trumpet the town of Brunswick’s help in making the project a reality.

“There’s some sentiment that the town is not always helpful to businesses,” said site manager Jim Detert, from the Wiscasset-based Rynel Inc., a Molnlycke subsidiary. “We haven’t found that at all. The town has been great.”

In introducing Jerry Favreau, vice chairman of the Brunswick Town Council, on Tuesday, Steve Levesque echoed that sentiment.

“People say the town is anti-business,” said Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the group charged with overseeing the conversion of the base for civilian reuse. “But to get this permit, it was a really quick process. It wasn’t any problem at all.”

Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority is borrowing $13 million to build the facility on the site of a former Navy warehouse, while the Swedish-based Molnlycke plans to invest $12 million in equipment to stock the laboratories and manufacturing lines inside. The construction process is expected to take about 12 months.

The official welcoming ceremony for Molnlycke cements another big — however hard to pronounce — name to the roster of employers already located in former Navy facilities or planning to do so in the coming year.

Among the companies starting to hire at the newly renamed Brunswick Landing are startup airplane manufacturer Kestrel Aircraft Co., information technology firm Resilient Tier-V and the locally based Maine Tool & Machine.

The pace of the base redevelopment has reached unprecedented levels in comparison to similar projects at closing military properties elsewhere in the country, those in attendance reiterated Tuesday.

“It wasn’t long ago that we were talking about doom and gloom, and having a dark cloud hovering over this property,” state Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, told Tuesday morning’s crowd. “It wasn’t too many years ago that we didn’t think we’d even be allowed onto the base until 2014 or 2015. Lo and behold, we’re here on June 21, 2011, welcoming another great new company to Brunswick Landing.”

Gov. Paul LePage, the first speaker at Tuesday’s event, suggested his administration aims to remove regulatory hurdles for companies, like Molnlycke, considering opening new plants on Maine soil.

“We in government have to streamline things, make it easy for them to come here, and get out of the way,” the governor told the ceremony audience.

Pierre Guyot, chief executive officer for Mölnlycke, called the groundbreaking “historical and strategic” in terms of the company’s expansion into the United States.

Guyot said his company will reach $1.5 billion in sales by the end of this year, and its establishment of facilities in Wiscasset and Brunswick represents key milestones in its quest to become the top health-care-product manufacturer in the world.

Phil Cooper, the company’s wound care division president, shared with Tuesday’s crowd that Molnlycke is making strides toward that ambitious goal. He said the company already supplies wound care products to many of the top hospitals in America, and it experiences “regular annual growth in the double digits year after year after year.”

Detert said medical foam now made at Rynel in Wiscasset must go through a six- to nine-week shipping process to facilities in Finland before it can be assembled as part of a final product, packaged and distributed to hospitals around the globe.

“Soon, those same trucks will get on Route 1, then [turn off] at Cook’s Corner,” he said. “When you think about shortening the cycle and supporting the sales growth in the U.S., it’s very exciting.”

Arthur Mayo, chairman of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority board of trustees, said the introduction of Molnlycke represents the “exact type of project we envisioned when we drew up our redevelopment plan more than three years ago.”

See more news from The Times Record at http://www.timesrecord.com/.

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