Steve Levesque’s determination to tap into Americans’ entrepreneurial spirit and help a community develop a strategy to deal with the loss of a major employer turned what could have been a devastating economic blow into a major opportunity.
As executive director of the Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA), Levesque was charged with preparing a master plan for the redevelopment of Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine, once it closed. Since 2008, he has been executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority (MRRA), and has led the implementation and oversight of that master plan and guided the once-bustling installation toward civilian reuse. MRRA owns and manages the 2,300-acre property, now called Brunswick Landing, which has become one of the most impressive redevelopment projects in the 2005 BRAC round and the most successful economic development initiative in Maine.
The rejuvenation of the closed air station under Levesque’s leadership has sparked 70 new businesses and created 600 jobs. One example is TechPlace, a new technology manufacturing business incubator/accelerator that supports MRRA’s targeted sectors. TechPlace is home to 12 startup and early-stage technology businesses. New and established businesses from many other industries have been attracted to Brunswick Landing, including the aerospace, biotechnology, renewable energy, information services and composite industries. In addition, the base’s airfield and flight facilities have been converted into the two-runway Brunswick Executive Airport.
MRRA’s ability to attract business ventures and nurture startups has put it on a sound financial footing. It was one of the first LRAs from the 2005 BRAC round to pay off its economic development conveyance obligation, reimbursing the Navy $3 million 10 years before the payment was due. The redevelopment authority produced $2 million in revenue sharing from property leases and sales and has successfully pursued more than $50 million in federal and state grants and bond programs.
At the same time, Levesque has ensured that Brunswick Landing supports not only the local economy, but organizations and services that meet other vital needs of the surrounding community. Tenants include a new joint campus of Southern Maine Community College and the University of Maine, which together serve almost 1,000 students, and a school for autistic children. It also will house a congregate care facility and a memory care facility, both of which help residents while providing hundreds of new jobs in the community.
In the decade since the air station was slated for closure, Levesque has spearheaded an economic renaissance that has borne out the Brunswick Landing motto — “You can make it here.” For galvanizing the region’s entrepreneurial nature while attracting dozens of businesses to a high-tech business campus at the site of a former Navy base, ADC is awarding Levesque its Community Leadership Award. Levesque will be recognized along with the other Defense Community Awards winners at the ADC Awards Breakfast Wednesday on Capitol Hill.