Mark Wilcox, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Loring Development Authority (LDA), announced the retirement of long-time President & CEO Carl Flora. Flora began working at LDA in November 1995, just over a year after the closure of Loring Air Force Base. He served as vice president & general counsel until 2005 when he was appointed as president & CEO.
Wilcox said that the organization is pleased that Flora will continue to serve as president & CEO in an interim capacity until the board is able to identify a successor. A search committee composed of LDA trustees has been formed to begin that process.
During Flora’s tenure, Loring Commerce Centre has seen many milestones. The transfer of the real estate occurred in 2001 and 2004, following the completion of several environmental cleanup projects by the United States Air Force. While steadily adding to its tenant base in the late 1990s and early 2000s, LDA hosted three major outdoor music festivals featuring the band Phish. Each of those concerts brought between 60,000 and 70,000 fans to the site and local residents fought traffic congestion, never before seen in Aroostook County.
In 2005, the Department of Defense dealt Loring a significant blow when it announced a proposal to close the Defense Finance and Accounting Center (DFAS) as part of a nationwide consolidation of support services. The DFAS center at the time employed approximately 350 people. Flora co-chaired the “Grow DFAS Committee” which advocated before the BRAC Commission that rather than close the Loring DFAS center, it should be expanded because of its high productivity and low operating costs. Ultimately the commission decided to expand the center, nearly doubling its size.
By 2008, owing in part to a surge in vehicle rebuild activity at Maine Military Authority, Loring saw a peak of nearly 1600 jobs at the former Air Force Base.
Flora has led the effort to find appropriate uses for Loring’s vast airfield infrastructure. In his tenure, Loring has been used for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul, flight testing of unmanned aircraft, development testing and research projects, and is being considered to serve as a Spaceport to support certain satellite launches.
New efforts are underway to establish manufacturing, processing and aviation operations to create new employment opportunities, that could replace those previously provided by Maine Military Authority which ceased operations in 2018.
Flora said that redeveloping a large air base in a rural location is a tall order. Major challenges in doing so include a remote location, and much higher costs of maintaining and operating infrastructure. However, most companies that have located here have found the location to hold many, less obvious advantages. Some advantages include a motivated, skilled and productive workforce, as well as an engaging and supportive business community that is eager to see companies flourish in Aroostook County. Flora hopes to remain available to assist the LDA in its development efforts into the future.
“I speak for the entire Board in saying that Carl’s efforts are highly appreciated and his dedication, commitment and leadership at Loring is a legacy to be proud of,” stated Wilcox. “We wish Carl a long and healthy retirement with sincere gratitude for all that he has accomplished at Loring Development Authority on behalf of the citizens of Aroostook County.”