Councilors OK $159,000 purchase
DEXTER — Town officials believe the decision to purchase a former Dexter Shoe Co. building could jumpstart economic development in this Penobscot County community hit hard by the loss of traditional manufacturing jobs.
Dexter councilors voted unanimously Thursday night to purchase the 116,000-square-foot building for $159,000, provided that the town's application for Community Development Block Grant funds is approved. The assessed value of the property is more than $571,000, including the 4.5 acres on which it sits.
"People have been coming to us since the facility closed [in January], but, generally, they were looking for a smaller space — between 20,000- and 30,000-square-feet with 10 to 20 potential employees — but we had nothing to offer them," Town Manager Bob Simpson said Friday. "This purchase will give us an opportunity to be competitive with other communities in Maine and, maybe, give us an edge."
Eight days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Dexter Shoe Co. officials announced that it would cease operations at its remaining manufacturing plant in Maine and reduce its work force in Dexter by about 475. The company closed smaller facilities in Milo, Newport and Skowhegan between 1999 and 2001.
The town's preliminary plans call for subdividing the existing building into at least three separate areas that could be used as "incubator" space for start-up firms, according to Simpson.
"Our goal is to create jobs for as long as possible," he said.
The town manager estimated that renovation costs would be about $200,000, bringing the total cost of the project to more than $300,000, to be covered by grant money. Simpson added that the town would have to pick up the cost of a project manager and an environmental assessment and other studies related to the renovation of the building constructed in 1890.
Dexter Shoe's parent company, H.H. Brown Shoe Co. of Greenwich, Conn., has agreed to the purchase price, according to the town manager. The firm owns two other facilities in the town of 4,500, Simpson said. Both are state-of-the-art, multimillion-dollar manufacturing facilities that are on the market, but "well beyond the town's capacity financially."
Representatives from Eastern Maine Development Corp. and the Department of Economic and Community Development assisted the town in its efforts to purchase the building, he said.
Representatives from EMDC and DECD could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
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