UPDATE

Camden can’t attract businesses to property, even when it’s free

Posted Dec. 28, 2011, at 1:47 p.m.

CAMDEN, Maine — After more than a year on the market, the town of Camden hasn’t been able to give away a piece of riverfront land zoned for commercial development.

The $0 price tag hasn’t drawn any buyers. The town’s development director says that’s because a $0 price tag doesn’t mean “free,” and also because of the general economic climate.

Last September, Camden revealed its plan to give away 3.5 acres of riverside land to anyone who wants it — with a few caveats. The future owner of the land will have to pay $200,000 up front. Then, for every eight workers hired, the owner will get a third of the purchase price refunded.

The company will have five years to hit the 24-employee mark and get the full rebate of $200,000 before the offer expires.

The jobs also have to pay more than the average wage for Knox County — $45,165 including benefits, to be exact.

The land also is challenging to build on. The site sits beside the Megunticook River, and used to house Apollo Tannery, which allowed tanning solvents to run into some of the land’s soil.

So far, there hasn’t been much movement on the land. In April, a startup movie company offered to buy the land, so long as it only had to pay $1 for it upfront. Camden agreed, but the movie studio backed out anyway.

“The land is still available with much of the cause being due to the economy,” said Brian Hodges, Camden’s development director. “The economy took a turn to a level that we have not seen since the Great Depression. As a result, much of the business community turned from an expansion to a retention/maintenance mode.”

Hodges said the town is continuing with an aggressive advertising strategy to try to lure in buyers.

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