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MMA may lay off up to 50 employees after bus renovation project

LIMESTONE, Maine — When the Maine Military Authority completes its Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority bus renovation project in a few weeks, it may have to lay off 53 employees if more work is not found.

The project began in 2014, when MMA signed a $19 million contract to overhaul 32 transit buses. Officials determined in 2016 that the project was more costly than initially anticipated, but Gov. Paul LePage and state lawmakers ultimately saved the contract and jobs by approving a $7 million rescue package.

In addition, the newly formed Loring Industries LLC on the former Loring Air Force base entered into an agreement with MMA to supply some of the specialized parts required to complete the bus contract.

Tim McCabe, head of business development with Loring Industries, confirmed on Friday that while the MMA project is “coming to a close in the next month or two,” he is currently in the process of hiring some of the MMA employees before the project’s end to assist in some of Loring Industries’ upcoming projects.

“We have about 15 of our own people moved over to other projects,” he said, “and we have more coming, but we can’t count our chickens before they hatch.”

Currently, Loring Industries is working on buses for Motor Coach Industries and is in the process of finalizing other contracts. McCabe said that “more business is coming down the road,” but that he can’t go into detail until everything is official.

MMA Executive Director Tim Corbett said on Tuesday afternoon that the 53 workers would have to be laid off if other projects are not contracted by the time the MBTA project is finished.

He added that several projects “are in the works,” but that “the timing is not up to us,” and that the “start dates are not clear.”

Corbett said he and MMA officials have been working on acquiring some of these potential projects for “three years.”

“It’s a matter of timing and regulations for each [potential project],” he said. “It’s been really difficult.”

For the time being, Corbett said the only thing they can do right now is follow through with their current project and hope to see additional work in the future.

McCabe of Loring Industries said many of the current MMA employees are “very talented” and he’d like to hire them.

“I want to get some more work so we can use them,” he said, “but having the contract in hand is what it’s all about. As those projects come, we will be looking for people to hire. The folks at MMA have the talent we need.”

Loring Development Authority President and CEO Carl Flora said on Thursday that he has “indirectly” heard about MMA letting go of employees at the end of the MBTA project, and that he is aware that officials have recently notified their employees about the situation.

Like McCabe, Flora hopes that Loring Industries will “be able to step into the void and absorb some, maybe not all, but certainly some of the employees from MMA.”

He said Loring Industries is close to finalizing an additional contract that will “hopefully increase the volume of work,” for both Loring Industries and MMA employees.

“We’re just plugging along and waiting for some good things to happen,” Corbett said.

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