PITTSFIELD, Maine — In 1990, some forward-looking town councilors decided to buy a swath of land near the highway with the intent of drastically increasing the size of the Pittsfield Industrial Park.

An early ’90s recession and the fact that the purchased land was completely undeveloped kept the new section of the industrial park from moving forward. With 20 years now gone by, a new crop of town councilors is again intent on the expansion, even in the midst of a recession where few businesses are looking to expand.

With the help of $880,000 in federal stimulus funds administered through the federal Economic Development Agency plus $220,000 in funds from another federal grant that have been sitting in town coffers for years, the town is on track to create six new ready-to-develop sites by next month. They will be complete with roads, water and sewer lines and electrical service.

Construction crews have been working at the site, which is located off Somerset Avenue adjacent to the existing Pittsfield Industrial Park for most of the summer.

“When the economy turns around and businesses start investing their money again, we will be all ready to go,” said Pittsfield Town Manager Kathryn Ruth. “We’re preparing for the future.”

Just a few years ago, said Ruth, there were at least eight businesses looking for industrial-zoned land in Pittsfield. Although tough economic times have shrunk that list to one, Ruth said the new lots’ proximity to Interstate 95 and Pittsfield’s service center should make them among the most attractive properties in the area.

In addition, the town has been pre-approved by the state to offer tax increment financing agreements which allow businesses to recoup some of their property tax payments to assist with construction and start-up costs. That coupled with a series of tax and energy incentives offered to any expanding business under Maine’s Pine Tree Development Zone program make developing in Pittsfield all the more affordable, said Ruth.

The older portion of the industrial park contains 10 lots. Nine have active businesses on them.

Because of a wetlands issue, the tenth lot has a tiny buildable footprint and has remained vacant since the park’s inception in 1976. Ruth said the industrial park generates more than $166,000 per year in revenue for the town. The six new lots are between 2.1 acres and 4 acres in size.

Though a wide range of business and industry is acceptable in Pittsfield’s industrial park zoning rules, the town is attempting to create “manufacturing clusters” that could benefit other Pittsfield-area businesses. To that end, the town is seeking firms that specialize in precision manufacturing, forestry and forest products, information technology and financial services.

Without stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, this project would not have been feasible, said Ruth.

“The town simply could not fund this with property tax money,” she said. “We would never put that burden on our taxpayers.”

Ruth said the effort to market the new commercial lots will begin in earnest this winter, but that businesses are welcome to contact her at any time by calling 487-3136.

Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.