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This week’s edition!

Only Steps Forward Hartt Transportation ribbon cutting in Auburn

By Jonathan P. LaBonté

Mayor of Auburn

In the last week, I joined the drivers, mechanics, management and family owners of Hartt Transportation for a ribbon cutting at their new $5 million terminal on Kittyhawk Avenue.  The celebration was not only for the growth of their business since they first set up shop in a little over a decade ago, but also how the city was able to use one of its economic development tools to get this project to the finish line.

Hartt first came to Auburn with a small portion of their business tied to a local manufacturer.  They saw an opportunity to grow here and had been operating out of a cramped location on Hotel Road.  The service quality and business offerings clearly were a fit in our region, as the client list has grown to include many of the largest businesses in our region.

Unless you find yourself taking cruises along Lewiston Junction Road, Rodman Road, Kittyhawk Avenue or a few other spots, it can be easy to not recognize the industrial and manufacturing “neighborhood” that exists in Auburn and adjacent Poland.  Our public infrastructure has created an environment where private companies can thrive and grow, and businesses that provide services to them can grow as well.

As Hartt was looking for how to grow from its Hotel Road location, they considered building a modern terminal at the land on Kittyhawk Avenue.  Building the necessary road connections into the property, as well as extending the utilities, were adding a significant cost that presented a challenge to financing the project and keeping it viable.

We knew that if the infrastructure was in place, Hartt could not only build their terminal but have several commercially viable lots it could sell to accelerate growth of tax revenue for the community.  And in comes one of those unique times where a TIF (tax increment financing) District could help both a developer and the city.

By committing to return a small portion of the new tax revenue to Hartt, if they built the terminal, the city aided them in securing financing to build the terminal and move forward the new Kittyhawk Business Park.  The Hartt family only gets a return of revenue until the cost of the infrastructure into the park has been paid for.  And all revenue from new development in the park goes into the city’s general fund.

There are some in economic development, and even some elected officials, that believe the government should control the real estate market for industrial and commercial growth and Auburn has paid the price in higher property taxes because of decisions made under that approach.

In the case of the Kittyhawk Business Park, I am happy to have narrowed the role of the city and created a win-win, both for the Hartt family to grow its business and for taxpayers that benefit from new revenue available to hold the line on the tax rate.

There are projects coming forward in the next couple of months where a similar approach will be necessary.  Both the Lunn and Sweet (the Barn) building project and the proposed housing project on Spring Street will need some level of city support to get to the construction phase.

I will be asking the hard questions about the need and level of public support, how we can leverage every possible dollar, including state and federal resources, before we look to property taxes for investment, and ensure that there is transparency for the public to ask questions before any promises are made.

As always, if you have questions or want to talk more about growing our economy, please call me at 782-1174 or email at jlabonte@auburnmaine.gov

 

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