Members of Accomack’s Economic Development Authority were the captive audience of a Maine man Tuesday who could turn out to be their greatest mentor in creating an effective county industrial park and airport in Melfa.
Steve Levesque transformed an abandoned Naval base, which had terrible Superfund clean-up issues, into the thriving Brunswick Landing Center for Innovation that in eight years has lured 120 businesses that have about 2,000 workers.
Airport traffic has grown there by about “10 percent a year as aviation businesses and pilots discovered Maine’s newest and friendliest airport,” said Levesque. And some of the companies are from foreign countries. Levesque did it all in an area more rural than the Eastern Shore.
Can’t figure out how the two areas could possibly compare? Well, we have our natives and comeheres on the Shore. Maine has what it calls boomerangs. Not a curved piece of wood that returns, but people who are born in Maine, move away, and then come back to live and flourish. Levesque is a boomerang and he is trying to get others to be like him.
He surveyed high school students in his area to get their ideas on what is needed at his center. “These kids blew us away,” he said. “They were all about the future, having opportunities.” A couple of the students have already gone to college and set up their own business at the Brunswick center.
Levesque said if he oversaw the Accomack Industrial Park, he would construct spec buildings and make a plan in which all the properties for lease and sale were priced ahead so customers could be reeled in at a moment’s notice.
After years of being unprepared, the local EDA is now working on that plan. This week, the members, who are mostly new to the board, have also gotten all the papers signed with VDOT to clear the way for a traffic light at the entrance. It’s a safety measure that will be good for the park, the airport, the Eastern Shore Community College, anyone driving on that portion of Lankford Highway, and the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce, which is right at the entrance. Yippee!
The relatively new EDA chairperson is Stella Rohde, a former member of the Accomack Planning Commission, and a realtor, who should have no problem selling the concept of businesses coming to the area. David Lumgair is the vice chairman. He knows Levesque and got him to offer his presentation. Other members are former Mayor Jack Tarr, of Chincoteague; entrepreneur Ace Seybolt; real estate broker Andy Mason; Del. Rob Bloxom, who owns several businesses; and Iravon Ashby-Hope, a government worker. Deborah Christie is the executive director of the authority. Supervisors Paul Muhly and Harris Phillips are the liaisons.
If you see any of those people, tell them what you want to see at the industrial park. Give them your ideas or contacts. It could just bring in clean green business that would provide great jobs.