AUBURN — Close access to the Twin Cities airport, Auburn's rail port and 60 percent of Central Maine's employable adults could mean big things for the area's newest industrial park.
"There are assets here that make Auburn and, just across the town line, Poland, a major attractor for industrial and logistics companies," Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said Tuesday. "We see ourselves on the map of the flow of international goods."
City and local development officials kicked off work at a new industrial park Tuesday morning on Lewiston Junction Road near the city's border with Poland. Crews have already started work on the site, installing utilities and building new roads.
"We are fortunate to have eight developable, permitted lots with nearly 60 percent of the state's labor force found within a 60-mile radius of this area," said Darcie Beaudin, president of the Auburn Business Development Corporation. "With the existing transportation infrastructure, the park is a prime location for businesses to relocate and expand."
The project is being built on three parcels owned by the Auburn Business Development Corporation. Combined, the three parcels make up 141 acres surrounding Cascades Auburn Fiber on Lewiston Junction Road. Plans call for a new eight-lot subdivision of 119 acres to be devoted to a technology-focused industrial park.
Beaudin said no businesses have committed to the site yet, but local development officials have talked unofficially with a few companies.
"They are pre-loading our road, Cascades Drive," Beaudin said. "That will settle over the winter and we should be building in the spring. So we should be ready for purchase and development next spring."
The project is a joint venture between the city of Auburn and Auburn Business Development Corporation that has been in the works for eight years. Auburn city councilors approved a $3 million bond in 2005 for the project. The Army Corps of Engineers announced its approval a year ago.
"There were times when the board was not sure it would get the permits to get this project off the ground," Beaudin said. "It was the tenacity of the board, the work of our staff and countless partners that stepped up through the years that kept it moving in the right direction."
The project also picked up a $1.7 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration last year to help pay for utility and site work on the 141-acre industrial park.
The city estimates the new industrial park could create approximately 200 new jobs and attract $10 million in private investment.