AUBURN — City officials rolled out an economic development marketing campaign Monday, announcing two new hires and several incentives meant to lure developers to Auburn.

The announcement Monday showed the results of a recent decision to rework city departments as Auburn officials hope to build on development growth in the city that has continued despite the pandemic.

The city is banking on financial incentives, a “fast-track” permitting process, and “shovel-ready” lots in the downtown to capitalize on what they see as an influx of development dollars coming from southern Maine and out of state.

“We have a City Council that understands and appreciates what new residents, businesses and commerce can bring,” said Mayor Jason Levesque during the virtual news conference. “We want to blend growth with conservation in a true win-win scenario. You will not hear our team saying ‘no,’ but rather ‘how?'”

During the news conference, Eric Cousens, the newly-appointed director of Planning and Permitting, said that during the first half of 2020, Auburn permitted 288,000 square feet of new structures, while the Planning Board approved new development worth $55.8 million.

He said the second half of the year could yield more, with roughly $21 million in construction over 300,000 square feet of residential, commercial and industrial space.

The conference was also used as a way to introduce Auburn’s new economic development staff.

Jay Brenchick was named director of economic development, while Glen Holmes was hired as director of business and community development.

Brenchick, a former director of New Hampshire’s film and television office, has also held economic development roles in Florida and Virginia.

During the conference, he said he’s been “actively pursuing working in Auburn,” and is excited to work under the new fast-track permitting process. He said the city bringing in Holmes to work with existing businesses shows a commitment and investment in economic development that municipalities need to make.

Holmes, an Air Force veteran, said Monday that the process behind the new development incentives will be transparent, with residents able to see how “they pay back into the community.”

“It’s not just money going out the door,” he said.

“Auburn is fortunate to have many outstanding businesses who have been part of the fabric of our community for many years,” said City Manager Phil Crowell. “We need to come alongside those businesses, assist with expansions, focus on workforce development strategies, and explore financial tools to help make them more successful.”

City administration did not immediately respond to a request for the salaries of the new hires.

The announcements Monday came after a few months of council discussions over economic development, including streamlining the permitting process, applying form-based code to a wider swath of the downtown district to encourage in-fill development, and looking at population growth.

Levesque said Monday that Auburn will look to increase its population from roughly 24,000 to 30,000 over the next five years, through a combination of new housing development in the downtown, and “new homes in neighborhoods yet to be created.”

Cousens said the changes in the permitting process amount to a “one stop shop” for developers, and that with the increased demand for housing in Maine, Auburn’s streamlined process will make it more attractive.

According to a news release, that will include “timely local and state-delegated permit reviews at a cost that is 25% of normal state fees;” and “pre-approved industrial or commercial subdivision lots” that are eligible for “quick, staff-level site development approvals for most uses.”

Brian Wood, assistant city manager, said Monday that Auburn’s new marketing campaign — working under the slogan, “Where your next opportunity is closer than you think” — hopes to show potential developers why Auburn has seen its recent growth.

He said a new economic development-focused website, goauburn.me, highlights “reasons why people like me are moving here.” (Wood moved to Auburn from Washington, D.C.)

Levesque said the campaign will target developers in southern Maine as well as out of state, hoping to capitalize on an increase of out-of-state homebuyers coming to Maine.

Michael Chammings, the former director of economic and community development, left his role in late August. In October, Crowell said the city was using it as an opportunity to shuffle departments.

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