AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage and a group of officials from the Loring Development Authority will travel to China later this week to meet with a company that is considering bringing manufacturing to the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone.

Loring Development Authority officials confirmed Monday that LePage was going to Beijing to meet with officials from North China Industries, known as NORINCO, in an effort to land a deal that would see the Chinese company bringing a rail car manufacturing operation to the former base.

Peter Steele, LePage’s communications director, said he could not disclose who LePage was meeting with in China, but said the governor was invited to Beijing “to continue discussions about a major potential investment and manufacturing project in Northern Maine.”

Company officials have previously visited Maine and met with LePage, according to Steele.

Carl Flora, the CEO of the Loring Development Authority, confirmed LePage would be meeting with NORINCO executives. Flora will also be participating in the negotiations, he told the Bangor Daily News on Monday.

“This is an exciting opportunity, and we certainly wish we could share more information,” Steele wrote in a statement issued to the media in Maine. “But private companies competing in a global economy don’t like to publicize details of their negotiations in the press.

“The investment could result in a significant number of new jobs,” Steele wrote. “While other politicians are talking about raising the minimum wage for part-time, entry-level jobs, Gov. LePage is focused on attracting full-time career jobs that provide salaries and benefits that can lift Maine families into prosperity.”

No information was available on the number or types of jobs that might be associated with this potential manufacturing operation, or whether other states were vying for the company’s interest.

NORINCO is a conglomerate that manufactures high-tech defense products from firearms to military weapon systems. Heavily invested in research and development, the company also manufactures transportation vehicles for freight and people, industrial machinery, equipment used in oil fields and chemicals.

The company was founded in 1980 and does business worldwide, although not without some controversy. 

In 1993, the company was sanctioned and banned from selling any of its firearms in the U.S. after it was implicated in a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms sting in which agents posing as mobsters negotiated the illegal purchase of some 2,000 Chinese-made AK-47s.  

According to affidavits filed by the agents involved, one of the men representing NORINCO also offered to sell portable surface-to-air missile systems capable of shooting down civilian jetliners.

In 2003, the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush imposed stiff sanctions on the company for allegedly supplying Iran with ballistic missile technology.

Gas canisters found in the aftermath of chlorine gas attacks against Syrian civilians this past May, were marked with the symbol for chlorine and engraved with “NORINCO” as well as a logo featuring a delta wing and circle. NORINCO has said the logo is not theirs and denied selling chlorine gas to Syria. The Chinese government also said that chlorine gas, which has a number of industrial uses, is not banned under any international treaties.

LePage is expected to depart for China on Saturday, June 21, and will return late Thursday, June 26.

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Darren Fishell of the Bangor Daily News contributed to this report.

Meeting minutes for Loring Development Authority from March 2014.

Meeting minutes for Loring Development Authority from March 2014.


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