LISBON – Town councilors unanimously approved an economic development proposal Tuesday night which has the potential of creating 160 new jobs and boosting the town’s commercial value by $20 million.

Economic and Community Development Director Scott Benson said Lisbon will now be able to offer businesses an incentive under The Kelly Park Municipal Development & Tax Increment Financing District & Development Program.

Referring to the 49 acres on Route 196 which locals call “the former Dragon pit site,” Benson said developer Scott Kelly already has the commercial subdivision approved and all the site work completed.

“Essentially, this is a shovel-ready project,” Benson said.

The intent is to lure “higher-end users” to locate in the business park.

“This will not be a retail outlet,” he said. “Our industry targets are construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, finance and insurance, professional and technical services, education services and health care. Some developers may not rise to the level we want. In that case, there’s no deal.”

Potential employers have a workforce of 90,000 people to draw from in the Lewiston-Auburn-Lisbon-Topsham-Brunswick area, Benson said.

The park, about halfway between the Maine Turnpike and Interstate 295, offers access to major routes.

The specifics of what the town and future businesses agree upon will be spelled out in a credit enhancement agreement.

“I realize there are some challenges here,” Benson said. “The business perception of Lisbon is poor because of the blighted areas along the corridor. But we can change that.” 

The amount of the TIF for each business will be determined by a rating system that considers the number of jobs created, average weekly wages and the value of the new facilities and building construction.

“We’ve got a real guide here,” Benson said. “The development community can look at this and say, ‘This is the kind of credit enhancement agreement I would be interested in. This lines me up for a reimbursement that’s attractive to me.’”

The first CEA will be with Premier Development, LLC, whose president, Scott Kelly, is the developer of the park.

Ross Cunningham, who leads a group called Positive Change Lisbon, endorsed the program because it “puts us ahead of what other towns can offer.”

Larry Fillmore praised Benson’s presentation, but said he was concerned about how the project would be monitored.

“I don’t know the way to handle this, but it has to be done to protect taxpayers’ money,” Fillmore said.

Council Chairman Fern Larochelle described the program as “a win-win.”

“When I first got on the council, I wasn’t in favor of TIFs,” Larochelle said. “But we can’t wait for stuff to happen. We have to work with people to make things happen. This is a great opportunity. It’s very easy to find shovel-ready projects, but this guarantees the TIF will be in place. It’s going to set Lisbon apart.”