FirstPark in Oakland has hired a Portland commercial and industrial real estate firm to attract businesses to the park and find a possible buyer for the  285-acre development owned by 24 Maine municipalities. Above, Jim Dinkle, executive director of FirstPark, in November 2017. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file photo

OAKLAND — FirstPark in Oakland has hired a Portland commercial and industrial real estate firm to attract businesses to the park and find a potential buyer for the 285-acre development owned by 24 Maine municipalities.

The partnership with SVN | The Urbanek Group Advisors gives FirstPark greater exposure in Maine and New England, and connections nationally and globally through SVN’s network of offices and affiliates, according to an announcement issued last week.

That company said this greater exposure could be beneficial as COVID-19 affects businesses and encourages reshoring, the practice of bringing business operations that moved overseas back to their original country.

“COVID-19 has changed the way businesses do business and where they do business,” Jim Dinkle, executive director of FirstPark, said in the announcement.

“Experts are projecting that reshoring will continue to increase in the years ahead due to the long-term impact of the coronavirus. The value of producing, manufacturing and buying products made in the U.S.A. has become much more important for consumers, vendors and suppliers.”

FirstPark, off Kennedy Memorial Drive, associated itself with SVN | The Urbanek Group Advisors in 2016 when the park focussed its efforts on attracting smaller companies to lease new buildings.

FirstPark is also on the lookout for an investor to buy the park, if certain conditions are met.

Dinkle said in an email Friday that consideration would be given to a developer who proposed what he called a “planned unit development” of the lots that remain for sale.

He specifically excluded speculators who would bank the land as an asset, asserting that the mission of the Kennebec Regional Development Authority is “job creation and generating revenue” for the 24 communities invested in the park.

“The development is subdivided into individual lots and, unless a developer purchases the sum of the remaining lots, we will continue selling the remaining lots one by one,” Dinkle said.

The business park is in a Foreign Trade Zone along the Interstate 95 corridor. The lots come with the necessary permits and are considered “shovel-ready,” according to Dinkle. They also offer fiber internet for high-speed videoconferencing and remote working.

“We know the partnership with SVN will bring a lot more attention to the business park, region and our quality of life,” Dinkle said.

Erik Urbanek, managing director of SVN | The Urbanek Group Advisors, also pointed to FirstPark’s potential to attract businesses and perhaps a buyer.

“FirstPark has done a lot of things right to position the business park for success especially with the impact of COVID-19,” Urbanek said. “Based on the commercial and industrial estate trends we are seeing in Maine, New England and the United States, now is the perfect time for businesses to consider everything FirstPark has to offer.”

FirstPark recently welcomed the third company to buy property at the park in 2020.

Maine Eye Doctors, a team of local optometrists, including Dr. Lorie Lepley Parks and Dr. Helen L. Bell-Necevski, and Zlatko Necevski, the firm’s chief financial officer, recently bought a 6,000-square-foot location at 25 FirstPark Drive, in a transaction brokered by Bruce Holmes of Century 21 Venture Ltd. and commercial real estate broker Don Plourde of Coldwell Banker Plourde Real Estate.

Plourde echoed Dinkle’s perception of the effect COVID-19 is having on business: “In my 37 years of experience, it is clear that COVID-19 has changed the way businesses are thinking about their physical locations, what their needs are and how to keep their employees safe. FirstPark has several amenities that make it appealing for all types of industries.”

Earlier this year, J.B. Brown & Sons, a commercial property management and development company in Portland, bought the T-Mobile building at 133 FirstPark for $10.7 million. The building is occupied by T-Mobile’s customer care center, under a lease that expires in August 2027.

T-Mobile is the anchor tenant and largest building in the park. Other businesses with property in the park include Bioenergetic Healing, Gateway Financial Partners, Inland Foot & Ankle, L.L.Bean, MaineGeneral, Maine Medical Partners, One River CPAs, Waterville Community Dental Center and SurgiCare.

A new marketing plan implemented over the past couple of years has attracted attention from site selectors around the world, including a visit from Kim Yonghyon, consul general in Boston to the Republic of Korea, or South Korea.

FirstPark was established by the Kennebec Valley Regional Development Authority, which represents 24 communities: Anson, Benton, Canaan, China, Clinton, Cornville, Fairfield, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hartland, Manchester, Norridgewock, Oakland, Palmyra, Pittsfield, Readfield, Rome, Sidney, Smithfield, Solon, Starks, St. Albans, Waterville and Winslow.

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