2017-04-12 / Opinion

Holding Our Breath


Jonathan Crimmins Jonathan Crimmins If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

I really hope that the new aircraft venture coming to Brunswick Landing is a success and we see small boats with wings being tested all over the town. I really do hope.

Atol USA, Inc. has entered into an agreement with the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority to bring the production of their new flying boat to Brunswick. The company has announced plans to bring at least 50 jobs to the area and another 50 once the actual manufacturing gets underway.

Nothing would be better than to hear the whir of propellers being spun up at the airport. Besides the occasional small aircraft there is not much activity above our heads any more. It is a shame.

Of course, our own redevelopment history with the aviation community has resembled a bad relationship, a relationship on the rocks. One moment we are on again, the next, we are off. Sometimes, we just stopped hearing from them all together.

With millions of dollars in incentives and tax breaks we went searching for a suitable mate. First there was Oxford Aviation. A saucy little company to be sure. Oxford promised the moon to Brunswick.

Oxford Aviation already had a base of operations in Maine but claimed they would bring hundreds of jobs to Brunswick. The move was supported widely as the job creator that would help weather the storm of the Navy leaving town. Gov. John Baldacci and the rest of the Augusta cotillion came to Brunswick and talked proudly of the arrival of Oxford.

However, Oxford never lived up to their own hype. Few if any jobs were ever created by Oxford Aviation in Brunswick. Certainly, the number of planes that were supposed to be overhauled never came to fruition. The company subsequently filed for bankruptcy and would not respond to lawsuits filed by some aggrieved parties.

After licking the wounds that Oxford left, Kestrel Aviation came calling to the area. The company seized upon the goodwill and the desire of Brunswick Landing to fill the void left in the aviation market here. Again, the promises of hundreds of jobs and the prospect of new aircraft rising from Brunswick Landing was appealing.

Like Oxford, Kestrel immediately looked like a bad deal. Over the years, Kestrel kept a presence at the Landing but, there were problems a plenty. Kestrel, at one time, was not paying rent for the space that was leased. At another point, Kestrel was negotiating with Brunswick and the State of Maine for better incentives and tax considerations, while simultaneously working with officials in Wisconsin to gain a better deal in the cheese state.

Ultimately, Kestrel moved the bulk of their operations to Dairyland USA. In its wake was left a handful of employees, a pittance of rent payments and a big tiff over a TIF. Kestrel has not been the company that we were promised.

Then came Tempus Jets. Tempus came to Brunswick Landing with a seemingly more realistic plan to overhaul airplanes. For some time, the prospects looked good for this South Carolina outfit. However, as we entered the middle of the decade the economy and business climate took a downturn and now, the future is cloudy.

It has been reported that like, Kestrel, Tempus fell behind in rent payments at Brunswick Landing and now operates on a month to month lease. Tempus Jets is also facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit and has lost half of the company’s workforce over the last year.

Only time will tell if Tempus is to succeed at Brunswick Landing.

All of this points to an interesting situation for Atol USA. I hope for our sake and the sake of the employees at Atol USA that there is a market for a recreational aircraft like the amphibious plane they want to build. It would be great for the economy of the greater Brunswick area and beyond.

While we wait to see what the future holds for this little plane we must heed the warnings of the companies that came first. Long after the glitz and glamour goes away with the press conferences, long after the ink is dry on the lease agreements, there exists a cold truth that unless the product sells no manner of incentives or benefits will dig you out of a hole.

Let’s hope that Atol USA does not fly off into the sunset of the future leaving all of us with a runway of unfulfilled dreams.

That’s my two cents…

Jonathan Crimmins can be reached at j_ crimmins@hotmail.com

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