2016-03-23 / Business

5?'S ... with Ben Sturtevant, marketing and communications manager at MRRA

Times Record Business Editor

BEN STURTEVANT, marketing and communications manager with the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, is shown at the Brunswick Executive Airport. 
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BEN STURTEVANT, marketing and communications manager with the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, is shown at the Brunswick Executive Airport. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BRUNSWICK

1. First of all, tell us a little about yourself, such as where you grew up, went to school, other careers you have had, and some of your hobbies.

I grew up in the Augusta area — I still live there, proudly, in Hallowell. I went to college in Boston at the University of Massachusetts.

A good portion of my career was spent in the newspaper business. When I was at UMass, I had an opportunity to work at the Boston Globe in the sports department. After graduating, I worked my way up in different roles at papers in Florida and California, and eventually back to Maine, as a reporter, layout designer, editor, supervisor and website manager/producer.

After being laid off a couple of times, I realized the newspaper business was not the most stable industry. I left the business and worked in marketing positions at several different companies, including L.L. Bean and Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Those were valuable experiences in which I was able to learn about customer service, business operations, advertising, public relations, website development and design, and marketing.

When I’m not working, I love to spend quality time with my wife and daughter, especially outdoors.

As for hobbies, I’m hopelessly addicted to ice hockey. I play two or three times a week in beer leagues near my home. My other hobby is fly fishing for trout, salmon and striped bass. I’ve recently learned fly tying from a co-worker, so I suppose that will be a good winter hobby when I can no longer play hockey.

2. You are the marketing and communications manager for the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority based in Brunswick. What are your duties?

My job really boils down to telling the story of the redevelopment.

On any given day I might speak to a local resident who wants to know why we’ve closed a road; to one of our tenants about how to better market their business; to a reporter looking for information for a story; or to the CEO of a company interested in locating their business at Brunswick Landing.

Business attraction and marketing to out-of-state companies is a big part of the job. We do outreach to businesses mostly within our target industrial sectors (aerospace, biotech, composites, IT and renewable energy) that we think are good fits. We talk about the benefits of locating a business here.

We also spend more time than you might think marketing Maine and the Brunswick area in general, especially to foreign businesses that aren’t familiar with the area. We travel quite a bit to trade shows, both in state and out of state, even overseas. Any chance we get to tell MRRA’s story, we try to take advantage of without breaking the bank.

And we do a lot of follow-up work with prospects. We try to keep the conversation going with them however we can.

Day-to-day, I do a fair amount of writing and I work on a good portion of our printed marketing material, which is constantly changing. I shoot photos and sometimes even some video. I manage our websites and our growing social networks, which have become good communications tools, as well.

I try to help out however I’m able with MRRA and TechPlace events, tenant issues, and property showings as well.

3. What is the most fun part of your job?

I love coming to work every day. There’s always a new challenge, which makes it an interesting place to work. I really have some great teammates — very talented folks who I try to learn from every day.

Probably the most fun part of the job is when we land a new business. For instance, recently Wayfair became the latest Brunswick Landing business and plans to create 500 jobs. That’s huge for the area and the state.

It’s very rewarding to see your work pay off and especially to see a business succeed here. There’s a lot at stake. It’s the largest economic development project in the state.

We know the town and state are rooting for us to do well. It’s nice to know that when we succeed, it’s having a big impact beyond the fence line.

It’s also fun to work at such an interesting place, visually. Not everyone gets to watch $100 million jets take off and land just outside their office window.

4. Please give us your impressions of how Brunswick Landing has evolved and changed since replacing the former military base.

I had never been on the property until I started working here. So it’s all new to me.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first drove onto Brunswick Landing, the size and unique architectural style of the buildings, the wide-open empty spaces, the strange post-military vibe.

I have seen a ton of progress since my first day on the job in 2012. We had about 20 businesses and less than 200 jobs created when I started working here. Now we have 80-plus businesses and about 825 jobs created.

You see physical changes as well. We’ve sold 30-plus buildings and demo-ed nearly as many. We’ve also built several buildings, including Mölnlycke Health Care’s factory and a renewable energy plant. And we launched TechPlace, the manufacturing business incubator. That’s really taken off with 23 businesses in one year.

There is considerably more traffic here now, including more air traffic than when I started. A lot more people are at Brunswick Landing on a daily basis. Recently, we estimated more than 2,500 folks a day are on the property in various capacities. It’s astounding even to us sometimes how quickly it’s happening. It’s wonderful to see the place come back to life.

5. Will the success of the MRRA eventually put it out of business?

MRRA, as we know it, will certainly shrink in size and operational focus. As MRRA successfully accomplishes its mission and sells more property at Brunswick Landing and the Topsham Commerce Park to the private sector, it will shrink its operational footprint, eventually just operating and managing the Brunswick Executive Airport and associated 650,000 square feet of buildings (which can only be leased), as well as some utility and road systems that serve the greater Brunswick Landing property.

MRRA is the state-sanctioned airport authority until which time the Maine Legislature decides otherwise. We will certainly need to retain a core sustainable staff to support, market and manage these facilities and continue to work with the now 19 different property owners to achieve the long-term vision of the reuse master plan.

5 questions for you

• WOULD YOU — as a business owner or employee — like to participate in The Times Record business feature 5 Questions? It’s easy and it’s free. If so, please send an email to Patrick Gabrion at pgabrion@timesrecord.com. Thanks.

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