April 26, 2018
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Maine communities hope to lure Amazon jobs with incentives, state charm

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Snow covers the track at the Scarborough Downs harness racing track, Wednesday in Scarborough, Maine. The track is one of two Maine suitors trying to lure Amazon to the Pine Tree State.
By Patrick Whittle, Associated Press

A pair of Maine suitors is trying to lure Amazon to the Pine Tree State, although one of them is using the bidding process to the make the case for the technology giant to build a smaller project and not the second headquarters itself.

The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority and the town of Scarborough are relying on New England’s charm, the state’s affordable cost of real estate and a litany of incentives. Both have submitted proposals to the retail giant touting coastal Maine as the ideal place to locate.

The redevelopment authority’s letter states that it sees its proposal as a satellite facility as opposed to a location for the whole project.

“We believe that we could support a large satellite facility for the New England region, as well as a research and development site for drone operations,” the proposal states.

Amazon’s request for bids has unleashed a race by governments around North America to see who can make the biggest promises and offer the largest economic incentives to draw a project that promises to create 50,000 new jobs. More than 15 states and cities, including Chicago, Cleveland and Las Vegas, refused requests from The Associated Press to release the offers they made to the company.

Bidders who refused to release information cited reasons such as confidentiality and “trade secrets.” But others, including Maine, were more forthcoming.

Scarborough, the other suitor, is a town of about 19,000 just south of Portland, the biggest city in the state. The town’s proposal states that Amazon could set up at Scarborough Downs, a venerable horse racing track in town.

A local group of investors bought the Downs for a little less than $7 million this month and is planning a large-scale rebuild of the property. Scarborough Economic Development Corporation said in its proposal to Amazon that the new owners, Crossroads Holdings, are open to working with Amazon on developing the 479-acre site.

Scarborough is touting the location as ideal for Amazon because of the popularity and affordability of nearby Portland with workers. But it’s also proposing use of a state business equipment tax exemption, which provides 100 percent property tax exemption for eligible properties.

“With Scarborough you will find a progressive community receptive to a transformative project,” wrote Tom Hall, Scarborough’s town manager, in the proposal.

The redevelopment authority’s proposal would bring company facilities to Brunswick, a coastal city of about 20,000 that is home to Bowdoin College. The authority was created by the Maine Legislature to convert the closed Naval Air Station Brunswick to new uses. The proposal hinges on the concept of Amazon anchoring the former station as a high tech business complex.

The proposal boasts that Amazon would be within 50 miles of two-thirds of Maine’s workforce and could get its non-locally produced power from 100 percent renewable energy sources. It notes Amazon employees could take advantage of world-class skiing, beaches and an emerging food scene.

The proposal also states that a Maine Department of Economic and Community Development “business assistance package” would have “no legislative hold ups” and include some $200 million in incentives.

The AP also sought details on how much states and cities spent to create their bids and then promote them. Both bidders said they prepared their materials using existing staff resources and did not incur outside costs. Officials with both said they haven’t heard back from the company.

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