Success, the saying goes, has many fathers. Failure is an orphan. The success of C&L Aerospace, a Bangor-based aircraft repair and maintenance company, became the center of a political tug of war this week when Gov. Paul LePage and his New Jersey counterpart Chris Christie visited the facility.
A tax break supported by LePage (and approved by the Legislature) was a big reason the company was growing, Christie said.
Wait a minute, said the campaign staff of Mike Michaud, the Democratic challenger to LePage. A federal grant sought by the congressman was more important to C&L’s success, they countered.
Neither is telling the whole story. A major reason the company’s headquarters were moved to Bangor — from Australia — and that the company has enlarged its footprint and staff is because officials from the city of Bangor worked with it to secure funding and space for the expansion.
In 2010, C&L purchased the aircraft maintenance portion of the struggling Telford Aviation Services. It started off with just 20 employees. In July, it unveiled its $5 million expansion, which is expected to bring 40 to 50 more jobs, bringing the company total to about 170.
At the July ribbon cutting, Chris Kilgour, the company’s CEO, praised local, state and federal officials for making it possible for C&L to stay in and expand in Bangor, the closest airport location in the U.S. to Europe, one source of customers.
As part of the expansion, a 17,000-square-foot painting at the hangar was partially funded by a federal Economic Development Administration grant totaling $576,000. The grant application was written by officials in Bangor’s Community and Economic Development Department, and the city is the recipient of the federal funds. The application was supported by Michaud and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
The city also has loaned the company $450,000 through two loans. The loans are forgivable if C&L creates a minimum of 45 jobs. Fifty-one percent of the company’s hires had to be of people with low to moderate incomes. This level is defined by the federal government as $50,150 per year in 2014 for a family of four or $35,000 for a single individual, salaries equal to 80 percent of the median family income in the Bangor area. The company is expected to raise this income based on the employee’s skill level and the job he or she is hired to do.
The city also is leasing space it owns on the airport grounds to the company, at market, not subsidized, rates. Additional aircraft coming to the city mean additional landing fees and fuel sales for Bangor International Airport.
At the state level, a 2011 tax policy shift exempted aircraft parts from Maine’s 5 percent sales tax. This, too, has helped C&L, as has its location in a Pine Tree Economic Development Zone program, under which companies may qualify for tax breaks and reduced energy prices.
Of course, none of this would matter if the company wasn’t performing quality work and attracting more customers — basically, if it weren’t succeeding at business.
So, rather than bickering over whose contribution is most important, it’s worth remembering that economic development is a team effort.