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Now Hiring: New Company at Former Naval Air Base Seeks Skilled Workers
04/25/2013   Reported By: Tom Porter

Two years ago, a medical products company from Europe called Molnlycke Healthcare chose to locate its U.S. manufacturing headquarters in Brunswick, Maine, on the site of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. Molnlycke is one of world's leading makers of advanced wound-care products. It's based Sweden but has a global presence, employing about 7,000 people with about $1.5 billion in annual sales. The company broke ground on the Brunswick facility last month, and plans to begin production this fall. Before that can happen, though, there's some hiring to be done. Tom Porter has more.

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Now Hiring: New Company at Former Naval Air Base
Originally Aired: 4/25/2013 5:30 PM

Molnlycke 4

Molnlycke's near-emply manufacturing facility is expected to be full by the fall.

Molnlycke held a job fair this week. Among the positions to be filled: maintenance technicians, production operators and administative assistants.

"Nice to have a company like this moving into the area. Brunswick needs the work," says former Bath Iron Works employee Mike McGlinchey. McGlinchey is hoping he's the right fit for a maintenance job.

"My background is technical, and it seems like this facility is loaded with technical equipment and innovations," he says. "I've been on the production side, I've worked production for 13 years and engineering for 25 years."

Molnlycke needs about 50 employees in place by July. They currently have about half of that number. Finding the right applicants isn't easy, says Mark Dignum. "For the operator jobs, we've sifted through hundreds, literally," Dignum says.

Molnlycke 2Dignum (right, displaying one of the company's wound-care products) moved to Brunswick in September to manage the factory. Before that he was running a Molnlycke plant in England. He takes me on a tour of the new $14.5 million, 78,000-square-foot building. "So that'll be the employee entrance that you can see there."

By the end of the year, he explains, there'll be $35 million worth of machinery in the building. Because they're going to be making surgical products, it's extremely important to have a controlled environment. Parts of the facility are designated clean areas, where sterilized equipment and clothing must be used. Also the air must be filtered.

Dignum shows me the room where the filtration systems are based. "We have to have 10 air changes an hour, so the air flows in and out of the room in a certain way as well, and this is the equipment that provides all of that air," he says. "We could probably air condition half of Brunswick."

But why Brunswick, a former mill town of 15,000 inhabitants, more than two hours north of Boston? One reason is that it already has a presence in mid-coast Maine: The foam used in Molnlycke's wound-care pads is made in Wiscasset, at a plant it purchased two years ago.

But another factor - and one which was instrumental in luring it to Brunswick Landing, as the redeveloped former naval air station is now called - is a financing package known as the New Market Tax Credit.

"Molnlycke is an excellent example of how New Markets works," says Charlie Spies, chief executive of CEI Capital Management, a division of Coastal Enterprises Inc., a Maine-based non-profit that works nationally to spur economic development in deprived areas.

Because of the departure of the Navy two years ago, and the effect this had on the local economy, Brunswick Landing qualifies for New Market Tax Credits, a federal program administered by CEI Capital Management.

"The tax credits are used by corporations to reduce the overall cost of their investment in the project," Spies says. "And by doing that, ultimately the lease rates here and the cost of the building were lower than they would have been otherwise, and that allowed this to be a competitive site."

In the case of Molnlycke's Brunswick headquarters, this means reduced interest rates, which effectively saved the company more than $1 million on the cost of the $14 million facility - enough to make all the difference.

"Business incentives are part of the equation," says Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, or MRRA, the agency overseeing the civilian development of the former naval air station.

When larger corporations are looking at multiple sites, Levesque says, financial incentives are key. "So looking at how we compete and how we compare - Maine compares to other states - is part of that evaluation that companies look at."

In the case of aircraft-maker Kestrel Aeroworks, the New Market Tax Credits on offer were not enough. Kestrel currently employs about 40 people at Brunswick Landing, but original plans were to have 10 times that number here. However, early last year Kestrel said it was moving the bulk of its manufacturing operations to Wisconsin. where state officials had offered a financing package that trumped anything the Pine Tree State could offer.

Photos by Tom Porter.


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