2016-04-04 / Front Page

HUBZones topic of Brunswick seminar

BY DANEEM KIM
Times Record Staff


U.S. SEN. ANGUS KING shares his thoughts on HUBZones during a small business seminar on Friday morning at the Brunswick Landing. 
DANEEM KIM/THE TIMES RECORD U.S. SEN. ANGUS KING shares his thoughts on HUBZones during a small business seminar on Friday morning at the Brunswick Landing. DANEEM KIM/THE TIMES RECORD BRUNSWICK

Local business leaders were eager to get familiarized with the HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) program during a small business seminar on Friday morning at the Brunswick Landing.

The program currently helps businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal contract opportunities. When the former Brunswick Naval Air Station closed in 2011, its boundaries were established as a HUBZone, according to Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Steve Levesque.

Friday’s event, co-hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration and MRRA, was also attended by U.S. Sen. Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin who spoke about the progress of the program.

As Levesque introduced the event on Friday, he called it a “significant milestone.”

“One of the whole cornerstones of the redevelopment effort was to help grow new business and new small businesses in the area, not borrow from everybody else, but to really grow here and attract industry from out of state,” he said.

Seth Goodall, former state senator and the regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, spoke about some of the benefits of the program, noting that one of government’s goals is to award 3 percent of all dollars for federal prime contracts to HUBZone certified small business concerns.

“What it means is potentially on an open contract that a small business that is HUBZone certified could receive a 10 percent price evaluation preference,” he said. “It can make a whole difference in terms of contract, in terms of the growth of the company, in terms of potentially relaunching a company, in terms of getting a capital to impact other business lines within that company.”

Significant legislative changes were also made to expand the program, as one particular criteria for eligibility requires 35 percent of employees to reside in the HUBZone area.

King spoke of some of the difficulties with trying to amend the authorization in the National Defensive Authorization Act, calling the requirement a “drafting error in the original law” that took “a lot of negotiation” for its revision.

“It didn’t make sense in the context of a base, but nobody had thought about it at the time until we started to try to implement it,” he said.

With its amendment, businesses in Lisbon, Durham, Freepor, Topsham, Brunswick, Bath, West Bath, Harpswell, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham can now qualify for these economic incentives.

Pingree was also encouraged by the program’s development, as the topic of HUBZones have been “a long time coming.”

“Everybody was optimistic when the Navy left. We had Steve, we had other people who were going to make some changes, but I don’t think anybody would have ever imagined that we would have as much change as already happened here, and a lot of you are a big part of that,” she said. “It’s just really amazing, the diversity which represents a lot of what’s happening in Maine.”

Poliquin, who sponsored the HUBZone amendment, also encouraged business leaders to reach out to U.S. leaders and other resources as they go through the application process.

“When it comes to Maine issues, we are completely on board,” he said. “If there is any way humanly possible we can help you grow your businesses, be more successful, be more profitable, hire more workers … we’ll do that.”

“It really does take a great team to build a community and a strong economy, and here in Brunswick that is happening,” Goodall also said. “HUBZone is a key component to that and we want to see the HUBZone activity go up significantly in Maine because Maine small businesses will win contracts, they’ll create jobs and they’ll make the economy even stronger right here in this great state.”

Levesque also thanked the leaders for their hard work with the program, noting that this was an impressive feat.

“It’s really what we do collectively that really makes a difference and it is making a difference and people notice that,” he said.

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