New funding source might keep Kestrel jobs in Brunswick

Posted Oct. 21, 2011, at 7:22 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 22, 2011, at 8:56 a.m.

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Gov. Paul LePage
Pat Wellenbach | AP
Gov. Paul LePage

BRUNSWICK, Maine — The news Thursday that Kestrel Aircraft Company might move some of its planned 600 new Maine jobs to New Hampshire surprised Department of Economic Development Commissioner George Gervais as much as it did anyone else.

“I found out Thursday morning,” said Gervais. “I immediately cleared my schedule and backed out of the Capitol for a Day event with Gov. LePage in Waldo County. We’ve been working on this feverishly.”

The result, according to Gervais, is a new funding source that may help Kestrel keep all of its operations in Brunswick.

“We’ve identified an additional funding source that wasn’t on the table until recently,” said Gervais.

Kestrel, which wants to build a new brand of single-engine turboprop aircraft, originally announced that the bulk of manufacturing would occur at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. But this week, citing problems securing federal tax credits designed for new businesses, Kestrel President Alan Klapmeier said it was considering building a plant elsewhere — perhaps in Berlin, N.H. — to construct some of the plane’s components while keeping its assembly plant in Brunswick.

Klapmeier was unavailable Friday for comment, according to Kestrel spokeswoman Kate Dougherty, who added that she had not spoken to him about any new funding sources for the manufacturing up-start. However, Gervais said he spoke to Klapmeier recently about the new idea.

“He was willing to allow us to pursue this on Kestrel’s behalf,” said Gervais. “This should fill the gap on financing that Kestrel is facing.”

Gervais said the new funding source involves another business, which he could not identify because that business is planning an announcement for next week, possibly Tuesday. The funding source, which Gervais would not identify as either public or private, would also be available to other businesses in Maine in the future.

“From what I understand, and I defer to Kestrel, this will allow them to continue as originally planned to do this project in Maine,” said Gervais. “Our goal is to make sure that happens.”

Asked whether the funding source involves a recent announcement by the Blackstone Group, which said earlier this month it will make an initial investment of $3 million in Maine that could create 10,000 jobs in 10 years, Gervais said it does not.

“It hasn’t been just me alone working on this,” he said. “Once this idea was sparked I pulled in some of the federal delegation and some of the legislators in the [Brunswick] area who are obviously concerned about the jobs involved. This isn’t just a DEDC show.”

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