Developers plan a $55M potato chip plant on former Aroostook air base

2 months ago

LIMESTONE, Maine — Local developers have chosen the former Loring Air Force Base as the site of a $55 million potato chip processing plant that could open next year.

Bruce Sargent and Jim Pelkey of Falcon Transportation in Presque Isle, announced Wednesday that they plan to locate Taste of Maine Potato Chip Co. at Loring Commerce Center, the 3,800-acre industrial and commercial park that opened after the base closed in 1994.

That’s good news for the Loring Development Authority, which has revamped its efforts to bring modern industries to Loring. Since last year, the authority and Portland-based Green 4 Maine, which now owns 450 acres of the commerce center, have been planning for a future $4 billion sustainable aviation fuel plant and other businesses focused on artificial intelligence and rocket production.

“[Taste of Maine] is about creating good will for the local community and well-paying jobs,” said Thomas Manning, a Green 4 Maine representative.

Sargent and Pelkey plan to break ground on the 80,000-square-foot Taste of Maine facility in early July and open the plant in fall 2025. They also want to construct a $2.5 million solar garden adjacent to the production plant, Pelkey said Wednesday. He did not specify the solar garden’s projected size.

Taste of Maine will employ 75 people at the start of production in 2025 but eventually expand to 100 employees, Pelkey said.

Sargent and Pelkey had been looking at sites in Fort Fairfield last fall, but have since chosen the site of the former Damon School, which served elementary school children of military families at Loring.

Pelkey and Jonathan Judkins, interim president and CEO of Loring Development Authority, announced Taste of Maine’s plans Wednesday to the Authority’s board of directors and Green 4 Maine officials.

“Bruce and I have been talking about building a potato chip factory for eight years and last year we decided to look around the community,” Pelkey said. “We’ve been working with the town of Limestone and Loring and are very excited about this facility.”

Taste of Maine will be located on a parcel of the commerce center that Green 4 Maine could have the option to purchase if they meet certain job creation and lease milestones, Judkins said.

The company could also benefit from future tax increment financing districts located at Loring, in which developers receive a portion of their property’s increased tax value after construction or expansion.

Limestone residents will soon vote on whether to allow town officials to draft credit enhancement agreements with Green 4 Maine for land they currently own or plan to own, which will include Taste of Maine’s property. If residents agree, the town could draft a separate credit enhancement agreement with Taste of Maine. 

A meeting to vote on the tax increment financing districts was set for Wednesday, Feb. 21, but has since been postponed to Feb. 27, said Interim Town Manager Alan Mulherin.