Oxford Aviation expands in Sanford

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SANFORD – Oxford Aviation said Tuesday that its planned $10 million expansion at the Sanford Regional Airport will not affect its operations in Oxford and Fryeburg.

Oxford Aviation, an 18-year-old plane refurbishing company, has been seeking to expand for some time, company spokeswoman Martina Dabo said. This past year, the company scouted a number of airports in and out of the state, and finally settled on Sanford, which has the fourth-largest public runway in Maine.

“Right now the aviation industry is booming and expanding so fast, we saw the need to open a new business,” Dabo said.

The company’s proposed 93,000-square-foot facility should be operating by next spring and will create about 200 jobs for painters, welders, office workers and others, officials said.

The major reason Oxford Aviation chose Sanford was the length of its biggest runway, 6,000 feet, which is double the size of Oxford’s strip and 1,800 feet longer than Fryeburg’s. A longer runway can accommodate larger aircraft, which the company seeks to service.

Jim Horowitz, Oxford Aviation’s chief executive officer, had approached Oxford County commissioners in the past about a possible runway expansion at the county airport in Oxford. But commissioners, when asked Tuesday about their response to Oxford Aviation’s expansion in Sanford, said this was never a viable possibility because the county airport is surrounded by wetlands, which are illegal to develop.

Oxford Aviation employs 50 craftspeople at its 40,000-square-foot facility in Oxford and 10 at its Fryeburg service.

Mark Green, Sanford’s town manager, said the opening of the refurbishing facility at the town’s airport will create jobs with livable wages, while also bringing opportunities to other businesses at the airport.

“We’ve seen a lot of manufacturing jobs leave in 20 years and we were anxious to bring a business like that back in town,” Green said. “And we love our airport, and we want to see our airport succeed and do well.”

Dabo said the 200 jobs will be entry-level jobs with an average pay of $18 an hour.

“We hope to get the majority of the jobs from the Sanford area,” she said. “The beauty is we can hire entry-level positions with almost no certifications because we train them on the job.”

Green said besides the long runway, Sanford offered Oxford Aviation a competitive package, which includes a property tax cut of $109,000, the new facility’s initial assessment. When the company grows, it will pay taxes on that growth, but the first $109,000 is waived for the length of its long-term lease. The airport is charging between 15 cents and 25 cents per square foot, depending on use of the land. Green said the annual rent would be about $25,000.

Roughly $4.8 million of the facility’s cost will come from public investment, Green said. Sanford will jointly apply with the aircraft company for federal and state grants and loans to help secure funding.

Dabo added that Oxford Aviation hopes to eventually expand the new facility, creating additional jobs.

In a previous interview, Horowitz said that some employees would be given the option to transfer to Sanford.

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