AUGUSTA — Maine’s Republican Gov. Paul LePage said a recent trip to China to court a manufacturer of rail cars to the Loring Commerce Centre would lead to continued negotiations, but he did not announce any pending developments.

LePage is hopeful that Norinco, a giant Chinese company that makes military weapons as well as industrial vehicles, will locate a rail car manufacturing facility in a space formerly occupied by the Maine Military Authority.

Under a memorandum of understanding between the Chinese company and Loring Development Authority, the company would essentially pay MMA to construct rail cars for markets in the U.S. and Canada.

In a prepared statement issued by his office, LePage said his talks in late June with Norinco officials in Beijing should lead to an ongoing dialogue.

“Our meetings in Beijing were very productive, and I am confident Maine is in a terrific position to compete for this opportunity,” LePage said.

Accompanying LePage to China were members of the Loring Development Authority and Maine Military Authority. LePage’s senior economic adviser, John Butera, also accompanied LePage on the trip.


“We must continue making Maine as competitive as possible for private investment and job creation,” LePage said. “Maine people want and deserve a strong and robust economy, and that’s what I am focused on delivering to them.”

Peter Steele, communications director for LePage, said the state paid only for the cost of airline tickets to Beijing. The cost of those tickets was not available Monday.

Carl Flora, president and CEO of the Loring Development Authority, also on the trip, told the Bangor Daily News the talks did not result in any concrete details.

“It’s a developing process,” Flora said. He also said the visit didn’t yield any timeline for China North Industries Group Corp., or Norinco, to consider expanding rail car manufacturing to Maine, but Flora concluded the trip with greater hope for that possibility, he said.

“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 rail cars 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 rail cars that meet new safety standards in the U.S. and Canada.

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.

But minutes from development authority meetings in 2013 and 2014 suggest an estimated $7 million rail upgrade from Loring to Maine’s deep-water port at Searsport would be necessary for the project to go forward.

Another potential project that would make synthetic diesel fuel from old tires and recycle the steel in them for sale could also benefit from the rail upgrade if that project were to go forward, the minutes indicate.

Bangor Daily News business reporter Darren Fishell contributed to this report.

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