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AUGUSTA, Maine, March 10, 2004 — With an investment of $500,000, Colby College has pledged to join in a partnership with the Kennebec Regional Development Authority (KRDA) and other investors to build a 20,000-square-foot ready-to-occupy building at FirstPark, the regional business park in Oakland.
Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci took note of Colby’s role in boosting the park’s attractiveness to new job-creating tenants today during a press briefing in his State House office. Baldacci and Commissioner Jack Cashman of the Department of Economic and Community Development praised the initiative as an example of creative approaches to economic development.
The new partnership seeks to raise up to $2 million from a combination of institutional and private investors to build 20,000 square feet of Class A flexible space on a 6.8-acre building site at FirstPark, according to FirstPark CEO Paul Levesque.
Colby President William D. Adams said, “Colby’s investment in this venture is an affirmation of our commitment to support local economic development initiatives and to do our part to help bring new jobs to the Waterville area.”
Colby’s trustee leadership supported participation in the partnership, Adams said. “We see a successful FirstPark as a promising element in this region’s economic development strategy, and a healthy regional economy is important to Colby’s goals,” he said. “We recognize that a prosperous community is essential to maintaining and increasing Colby’s attractiveness to prospective students and to recruiting new faculty and staff.”
FirstPark developers say that an inventory of high-quality existing space is critical to attract the kind of businesses needed in this area. Industry experts estimate that as much as 90 percent of all interstate expansion and/or relocation projects look primarily for existing space.
“Our land, location, infrastructure and marketing program have received national recognition,” said Levesque. “But our build-to-suit offering, no matter how well executed, addresses a limited market. With the proposed spec building on line next year we will have an additional ‘product’ made even more attractive by its location at FirstPark.”
“We are indebted to Colby for taking a leadership position,” Levesque said. “The college’s dedication to the community and its support of the FirstPark project are gratifying.”
In the coming weeks FirstPark officials will be working to raise the additional funds necessary to complete the partnership. Construction is slated to begin next spring.
Craig Nelson, president of the KRDA, said, “It’s important to recognize that this building program is being funded primarily by private equity sources. No additional debt will be incurred by member communities of the KRDA. In the business this type of investment is called ‘patient money,’ and it affords us time to build, market, lease or sell the building. It is essential to the success of a project such as this. Without a partnership of “patient investors, this project could not get off the ground.”
FirstPark is designed to stimulate new business formation, facilitate the growth of local businesses and attract expanding or relocating businesses to the area.
FirstPark is the initial project of the KRDA, a creation of the Maine State Legislature and mandated by that body to “Promote and develop infrastructure and programs for employment and regional economic development.”
The KRDA, which comprises 24 local communities, has committed to share costs and revenues for the FirstPark project.FirstPark recently signed a comprehensive marketing agreement with The Boulos Company, a CB Richard Ellis affiliate, to market the building sites and to sell or lease the partnership’s spec building. The park expects to attract a range of businesses that could include information technology, professional firms, hospitality, health care, biomedical technology, and electronics. FirstPark tenants are expected to range from small businesses in office buildings with multiple tenants to large company operations that may occupy one or more of the larger building sites.
Complete build-out of the park is expected to take about 20 years, about average for a project of this magnitude. The first two buildings have already been completed. The first was a 12,000-square-foot office building that houses the headquarters of a local financial services firm whose choice of the FirstPark location was driven by their growth needs and the desire to develop additional office space. The second building, dedicated to medical office, also has been completed.
In addition, plans are under way to develop a “professional office community” consisting of a five-parcel subdivision of one of the building sites. That project will be designed to accommodate start-ups and smaller businesses needing to expand. Additional information about FirstPark appears at its website, www.firstpark.com.
Colby President Adams said the college, founded in 1813, takes civic obligations to heart. Colby helped Waterville purchase a new rescue vehicle, annually donates used computers to local schools and worked with City Hall to establish the Waterville Main Street organization. Civic commitment extends to its academic program as well. Last year Colby launched the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, an innovative interdisciplinary effort to engage students and faculty in society at all levels, from local initiatives to global endeavors. The college website is www.colby.edu.