BRUNSWICK, Maine — Just as Swedish medical supply company Molnlycke Health Care opens a new 79,000-square-foot plant at Brunswick Landing next week — with plans to eventually hire “north of 80” employees — the redevelopment authority announced plans for “Tech Place,” a science and technology “incubator” they hope will draw smaller companies to the former Navy base.
Molnlycke Health Care, which broke ground for the project in 2011, has begun hiring a first wave of 20 machinery operators for its Brunswick facility — largely Maine employees, factory manager Mark Dignum said Wednesday. By the end of 2013, the company plans to hire 45 to 50 employees for the Brunswick factory.
On Thursday, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the entity charged with redeveloping the former Navy base, will take possession of the $15 million new building, and hand the keys to Molnlycke. By September, they hope to have the building outfitted with the state-of-the art machinery required to manufacture “advanced wound dressings.
“They kind of look like giant band-aids, but technically they’re a million miles away,” Dignum said. “They’re designed to promote wound healing and ease patients’ suffering.”
Part of the strategy of building the Brunswick Landing facility, Dignum said, is to take advantage of its proximity to the former Rynel facility in Wiscasset. That company — now owned by Molnlycke — manufactures the foam used in Molnlycke’s wound care product, according to Dignum. The Brunswick Landing facility — overall a $50 million investment — will reduce the costs of shipping the foam.
Molnlycke “had a fantastic year last year, and we project further growth this year,” Dignum said. As a result, the company has acquired land at the former Navy base on which to eventually expand their facility.
In a new initiative, MRRA executive director Steve Levesque said the redevelopment authority plans to market a 93,000-square-foot glass building, formerly used by the Navy to repair parts for P-3 planes, as “Tech Place,” a science and technology incubator that the authority hopes will draw businesses in the aerospace, advanced materials, biotech/biomed, energy and information services sectors.
The project will require $1.4 million, which the redevelopment authority hopes to see in federal funding.
The building, Levesque said, “is a perfect incubator. It’s broken up into all kinds of different shops — test cells, offices, a whole series. It’s a perfect facility for a technology incubator.”
Meanwhile, despite the decision by Kestrel Aeroworks to expand its operation in Wisconsin instead of at Brunswick Landing, the company remains the largest employer at the former Navy base, with 45 employees, according to co-founder Adrian Norris. Kestrel is currently hiring for three positions in Maine.
Kestrel also acquired the small engineering firm Janseneering in Topsham in 2012, Norris said, because Kestrel was subcontracting with them enough to make the acquisition profitable. The four employees remain with the company.
“Kestrel has grown, and renovated the building to include a fully functional materials laboratory, and we had an autoclave delivered last week,” he said, describing “a pressure-cooker” for curing the composite parts used to build the turboprop plane. The plane “still is not in the air, but the design is essentially complete and we’ve started to build the parts,” Norris said.
Meanwhile, the MRRA in September approved the sale of the former 248-room Navy hotel for about $3.4 million, and 190 housing units — essentially undersized apartments — the Navy called “bachelor-enlisted quarters” for about $2.6 million.
Developer George Schott, owner of the former Navy housing in Brunswick and Topsham, hopes to buy the former hotel and single sailor units, Levesque said, and another developer is interested in the former recreation center and 26-room Navy lodge.
More than 20 companies and organizations currently operate at the former Navy base, including American Bureau of Shipping, with 32 jobs; and Southern Maine Community College, with an enrollment of about 400 students, Levesque said,
And after contractors dug up the foundation of the former Navy Hangar 1, construction of a new 10-plane hangar at Brunswick Executive Airport “is off to a strong start,” Levesque said.
“We’re really excited about the nature of the world-class businesses that are becoming part of Brunswick Landing and part of the Maine fabric,” Levesque said Saturday. “World-class companies like Molnlycke and Kestrel and American Bureau of Shipping — those are world-class companies and that they select Maine and Brunswick Landing is pretty exciting to think about.”