CAMDEN, Maine — Two years after the town where the mountains meet the sea offered nearly 3 acres of commercial land at no cost, no business has stepped forward to take advantage of the deal.

But the lack of takers is not because of lack of trying on the part of Camden.

The 2.8 acres is located along the Megunticook River and has three-phase power, public water and public sewer.

Brian Hodges, the town’s development director, said the slow economy appears to be the reason that no business has taken the town up on the free land.

The Washington Street property was acquired by the town in 2003 after the former Apollo Tannery shut down and the property owners did not pay their taxes. The decades of the tannery operating at the site, however, left environmental problems. The town and state environmental agencies worked together and cleaned the property. In 2005, residents voted for a bond issue for the town to borrow $836,000 for the cleanup work. The town later received a $200,000 grant used to clean up brownfield sites.

The work was completed by 2008.

As the recession struck, town officials decided to try a marketing ploy to attract jobs to the community by offering the land for free. Residents have rated bringing year-round jobs to Camden as a top goal.

The site has been approved for state Pine Tree Zone eligibility which offers tax breaks and job recruitment incentives for businesses.

The new business would need to pay $175,000 upfront to the town but would get the money back in full if it creates 24 full-time jobs within five years.

The town had one offer to acquire the property a year ago when B.D. Turman’D Entertainment sought to purchase the 2.8 acres to build an 18,000-square-foot building for sound stages to film movies. The group said it planned to make $270 million worth of movies in Camden over the ensuing three years.

The Select Board signed a contract in March 2011 with the company, after which there was considerable criticism of the viability of the company by residents. B.D. Turman’D ceased pursuing the deal in April 2011, citing a variety of reasons including the criticism of some townspeople.

Any sale must go before residents at a referendum.

The town is using social media to try to attract a potential purchaser for the land.

The cause has a dedicated Facebook page and a dedicated website, http://www.freelandinmaine.org/, Hodges noted. The development director said he also has advertised the property on linkedin.com. The development director said that linkedin reaches chief executive officers, chief operating officers and entrepreneurs.

A video was has also been posted on YouTube.

“Social media is being used more and more for business development,” Hodges said.

The development director said Maine is one of the best states for startup businesses.

Hodges also said that while the town has not been able to attract a new business to the former tannery site, the town is still focusing on economic development.

“We’re focusing more on business retention and expansion,” he said.

But the town is still hoping to find a business to take advantage of the free land offer. The types of businesses that qualify for the program include biotech and life sciences, information technology, marine trades and boat building, financial services, graphic design and printing, precision manufacturing, medical research labs and green businesses.

29 replies on “Still no takers for free land in Camden”

  1. Are you kidding???  Any business owner can see the writing on the wall here.  As soon as they take ownership or occupy  this parcel they immediately become liable for any “unforeseen” problems.  The Maine DEP will do everything in its power to extract the monies from the new owner because the new owner  “knew or should have known” that problems existed.  Not only that but in Camden?  They would certainly be taxed to death anyway.

    1. I’m sure there will be many chemical spill sites that will need immediate cleaning as soon as a gullible business buys this “free land”. There have been chemical tanks leaking on this site for decades before they were taken out. In the day, it was common practice to dump the chemicals behind the tannery and let the Megunticook River and mother nature take care of it. Something tells me every square inch of this property wasn’t tested for chemical spills and cleaned up, but as you said, once a business commits to buy, the chemicals will mysteriously appear and need to be removed in order to generate money for the DEP.

  2. Could also be because Camden isn’t as friendly to businesses or people as Belfast or Searsport are.  I imagine Camden prefers the more “genteel and upscale” businesses for the well-heeled crowd to patronise…

      1. You clarified my sarcasm (I guess my sarcasm note didn’t make it) but if something was really free no strings attached it would be gone, but this is free with strings attached as mentioned, I am sure there are a lot, I mean several people interested not mentioned that was interested in this and backed off for that very reason

  3. Maybe the state should buy it and rent it to lure a business to set up on it.  The state has no fear of owning brownfields as collateral.

  4. I had to laugh at this article. Camden’s number one concern or comment was bringing more year-round businesses to the town, but then when a business does try to come to town, they get so much criticism they leave or they just plain get run out of town. Why don’t they just post a list of what they deem acceptable and unacceptable and save all those hard working businesses time for even trying to move to town.

  5. Typical headline and article..  FREE Land.. Some people still think there is a free lunch.. Most businesses are aware that there is no such thing as free, especially coming from a government.

  6. “Still no takers for free land…..”  Geez who writes this stuff.  It is not “free” by ANY stretch of imagination.  

    That said; Since Camden doesn’t need yet another wine and cheese boutique,  The town fathers could import a boat-load of Mexicans to stitch high-end jeans.

    Just a suggestion.

    1. Harry, why should the Mexicans work in this industry you mentioned?  Right now, things are getting so bad in the USA, only those Bosnians the USA government are bringing in for free with free housing and all (like they did back in 2001) and the same thing they did with the Vietnamese after the “war” we had for so long and the politician’s in DC “lost”; well, we come full-circle once again with a totalitarian mess on our hands.  Only a local business deal would suffice here with locals performing the worker base.  Nothing outside this enterprise would anything work.  Maybe making sails or fixtures for boats and ships – maybe! 

  7. The PTDZ initiative is intended to encourage and reward the creation of new qualified business activity statewide, especially in economically distressed areas of Maine.
    Guess I didn’t know things were so tough down there.

  8. “The new business would need to pay $175,000 upfront to the town but would get the money back in full if it creates 24 full-time jobs within five years.” ……………………………. and what would happen if the business could only be profitable with 23 full-time jobs ???

    This brings new meaning to the word “FREE”.

  9. Interesting how a lot of individuals have issues with the government regulating / providing oversight in the marketplace but there is not the same outrage when lack of oversight causes taxpayers to pick up the operating expenses of companies.   Why should anyone not receiving a nickel of profit from these operations have to pay anything towards responsible cleanup of operations?

  10. The land is just as free from Camden, as healthcare will be from the federal government.

  11. Any start-up business that would agree to Camden’s “free land” stipulations I doubt would have the brains to run a profitable business anyway.  With Maine’s negative attitude toward small business and Camden’s property tax rate – BEST WISHES!!

  12. Camden is desperate!  Personally, I foresee no business plan or legal gurantees and potentials here. 

  13. Most people associate “free” with “worthless.” If you drive by a table of used goods that are marked “5.00 or less,”‘ you’d be more apt to stop than if a giant sign proclaimed everything to be “free.” Perhaps Camden would be better off, just offering this parcel at a good buy.

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