The eight numbered lots outlined make up the Auburn Enterprise Center at Cascades Drive.

AUBURN — Auburn packaging manufacturer PackGen is finalizing a deal that would develop a large swath of the Auburn Enterprise Center, an industrial park that has remained empty since it was built by the city in 2013.

Former Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte speaks during the ground breaking of the second phase of Auburn’s industrial park in 2013. Picasa

According to city staff, a purchase and sale agreement is in place between PackGen and the Auburn Business Development Corp., a private economic development organization that has until now struggled to secure a single tenant for the eight available lots.

Eric Cousens, interim director of Economic and Community Development, said Wednesday that PackGen is looking to purchase all eight lots, using multiple lots for its new facility, and possibly leasing or selling the remaining lots.

The industrial park is off Lewiston Junction Road near the Auburn-Lewiston Airport and the city’s border with Poland.

For city officials, the potential deal is significant.

Mayor Jason Levesque said Wednesday that development at the industrial park has been a long time coming, but is welcome news.

“While it’s been a long and tedious journey, the end result will be more jobs, additional commercial activity and an increase in our tax base,” he said.

It’s also good news for the Auburn Business Development Corp., which has come under some scrutiny from officials over the past few years. Because the corporation had not sold any lots, it has failed to pay property taxes on the land. Each year, the City Council has waived foreclosure on the land in order to give the organization more time.

When approving the waiver in 2018, the council first held a meeting with the development corporation to discuss the issue and allow its members to present “a concrete plan that shows they are doing things differently than they have in the past 18 months.”

Cousens said the sale to PackGen will help the corporation pay back the taxes and move forward.

“It’s a big deal for the city, and it’s a really big deal for the Auburn Business Development Corporation,” Cousens said Wednesday. “The city supports this project and wants to see an existing Auburn business grow right here in Auburn rather than somewhere else, with the potential for creating additional jobs.”

Last week, the council tabled a vote to approve a tax-increment financing district for the PackGen development, opting to wait until more details are finalized. Cousens said the TIF will likely focus on capturing the value from two lots, which have not yet been determined.

The city approved a $3 million bond for the Auburn Enterprise Center in 2005 to do the necessary site and utility work. When it was completed in 2013, there were high hopes the land could attract about $10 million in private investment.

The development corporation has a board of directors that manages its assets and listings. The corporation describes its mission as facilitating the physical settlement, or resettlement, of business enterprises in Auburn.

PackGen, located at 65 First Flight Drive, manufactures large packaging containers for multiple industries, specializing in self-standing, pop-up style composite containers.

A call to PackGen for comment was not returned by late Wednesday.


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