Several plans to redevelop the 41-acre Brewer site have come and gone since Eastern Fine Paper closed its doors in 2004 and laid off the remaining 240 employees, But the Cianbro proposal is easily the most promising and was welcomed by Niemann Capital, LLC, the community development firm previously selected for the site.
Economic development on this scale has implications that extend well beyond Brewer. In an era that has seen a steady decline of manufacturing in Maine, and the accompanying loss of thousands of high-paying jobs, it is gratifying to see that a Maine-based company has the faith and vision necessary to make such an investment.
In making the announcement, Cianbro President Peter Vigue said Maine’s greatest asset is its people. “Their work ethic, ingenuity and determination are second to none,” he said. “In fact, we believe people are the very heart and soul of the economic vision we share with the city of Brewer for this site, our region and our state.”
Those involved with the project believe there already is an existing Maine workforce of highly talented and skilled craft professionals who have remained here even as the jobs many of them previous held disappeared. And for those who are not skilled but would like to learn, said Vigue, Cianbro has its own education and training program in place as well as a solid relationship with Maine’s technical schools.
Bringing large industrial projects to Maine is nothing new for Cianbro. The company completed two semi-submersible oil rigs in 2006 and has done oil tanker rehabilitation and now a ship conversion project that employs more than 500 workers on the Portland waterfront and at facilities in Bath and Brunswick. Additionally, Cianbro joined with Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and the city of Brewer in 2003 to construct a biomedical research and professional center now overlooking I-395.
The Penobscot River also was a factor in the selection of the Eastern Fine Paper site. Access to the river will allow steel and other construction materials to arrive and finished components to leave the plant by barge.
Some hurdles still remain if the new company, tentatively named Brewer Module Facility, it to be up and running by its target date of April 1, 2008. Permits must be obtained from appropriate state and local agencies. Removal of hazardous waste left behind from decades of paper-making, as well as abandoned above-ground fuel storage tanks, must be accomplished. The first phase of environmental remediation is expected to begin next month at the site, and a traffic study, road improvements and design of a pier will also take place this summer. Some dredging of the river also may be required to accommodate barges, and that will require the involvement — and approval — of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
But early indications are that Cianbro and city officials are committed to making the new facility a reality. “We believe Maine is looking at a unique window of opportunity,” said Vigue. “Right now, today, Maine is rich with a significant number of seasoned, talented people with craft skills — welders, pipefitters, millwrights, electricians, and more. And, at the same time, our state is wealthy with young people looking for hope, ready to be mentored, and wanting to live and work in Maine. Together, it is time to seize the moment and let customers know Maine is open for business.”
A copyright story from The Ellsworth American on Thursday, June 07, 2007.