When Martha Leonard took her La Fritanga food truck to Brunswick last year, she found a friendly community and college town open to a new type of food.
The co-owner of Maiz Colombian Street Food in Portland was so impressed with the atmosphere in the midcoast town that she plans to open a second physical restaurant in Brunswick this spring and hire six full-time employees.
“People seemed excited to try something different,” she said.
Leonard isn’t alone in finding opportunity in Brunswick, which also is less expensive to live in than Portland but which offers many city amenities.
Along with the downtown, the former naval air station at Brunswick Landing is a major attraction for new or expanding businesses. The midcoast town of 22,000 people is seeing rapid job increases, up 9 percent in the past 20 years at twice the rate of Portland, according to federal data.
Raven & Crow, which started a year ago and is an espresso bar that also sells crystals and other ritual tools, already plans to add 2,000 square feet this spring to its current 500 square feet so it can offer classes and events.
“If someone wants to open a business in the midcoast, they really want to open in Brunswick,” co-owner Lou Ford, who has lived around Brunswick for almost 20 years, said. “We considered other towns at first, but we felt our store would fit really well in Brunswick and we wanted to contribute to the local economy.”
Brunswick Landing also is seeing fast growth. Martin’s Point brought its 56,000-square-foot medical facility and 160 jobs there last year, and future projects include information technology company VividCloud moving into 20,000 square feet of new space and potentially doubling its current staff of around 80 over the next three years.
“The town has a lot of infrastructure and other resources at hand,” real estate agent Dave Holman of RE/Max Riverside Commercial said. “It’s also a fairly outward facing and diverse town because of the influence of Bowdoin College.”
Brunswick’s rapid job increase is expected to continue in the coming years, with several hundred new jobs expected to arise from new business projects on undeveloped land in Brunswick Landing, Sally Costello, the town’s economic development director, said. She said some of the job growth has tapered during the COVID-19 pandemic, but expects it to spring back in a few years.
That is partly because younger people are moving into the area, Costello said. It is more affordable than Portland and is building up housing stock. Brunswick Landing, which now has 2,600 people working at 150 companies across its campus, has nine new apartment buildings with a total of 108 units that were fully rented before its completion last year.
An expanded bus route now picks up tenants and transports them downtown, which Costello said is a valued amenity.
More housing, including single-family homes and condominiums, is in the works for Brunswick Landing, which added 14 new lots when it expanded its subdivision several months ago, said Kristine Logan, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which administers the formal naval air station. The landing is attracting information technology, securities and bioscience firms, which generally have done well during the pandemic.
“People waited for a couple of years to move forward with their plans,” Logan said. “I think that shows some confidence in the economy and in Brunswick Landing.”