PORTLAND, Maine — The head of the redevelopment effort at the former Loring Air Force Base said a state delegation’s recent trip to China advanced talks to bring a Beijing-based manufacturer to Limestone, but it did not result in any concrete details.

“It’s a developing process,” Carl Flora, president and CEO of the Loring Development Authority, said.

While Flora said the visit didn’t yield any timeline for China North Industries Group Corp., or Norinco, to consider expanding railcar manufacturing to Maine, he concluded the trip with greater hope for that possibility.

“I would say that the trip was a good opportunity to get to know each other better and build the relationship,” Flora said. “I felt better about the prospects after the trip was over.”

A deal with Norinco to build railcars in Limestone could benefit the Maine Military Authority, an equipment refurbishment company that laid off 140 employees last November because of contracts it lost with the National Guard Bureau.

The equipment refurbishment company is a potential contractor for the Chinese company, which is considering the move to target demand for railcars that meet new safety standards.

Norinco has been in talks for months with the Loring Development Authority, which in February approved a $40,000 option agreement with the company to pay for heating at the Blue Goose Building, which is occupied by Maine Military Authority.

The company was sanctioned by the U.S. government in 2003 for allegedly providing ballistic missile systems to Iran and again in the 1990s after being implicated in a sting operation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Flora said before the trip he asked the company about those past sanctions and didn’t see any connection between the company’s rail transportation division and the arms production division.

“The folks that we’re dealing with are in the transportation side of this very big company. So if there’s a connection, it’s very indirect. At least, it appears to be at this point,” Flora said.

Flora said Norinco is still interested in more information about the facilities at Loring. He said the entities haven’t discussed any state economic development incentives that might be available as part of a potential expansion.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.