Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rosenfeld: Lots more work to do on Haigis

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (June 23, 2005): After $10 million in utility installation on Haigis Parkway, “it’s going to take developers with very deep pockets to get the sites ready.”

That's part of what Harvey Rosenfeld, president of the Scarborough Economic Development Corp., told members of the Scarborough Community Chamber of Commerce last week.

Rosenfeld addressed the chamber at its annual meeting Thursday at the Black Point Inn, telling chamber members a lot remains to be done to the parkway's parcels before they are ready for businesses to build on them.

The utilities, while present, are only in the street, and the lots will have to be surveyed, have roads and other infrastructure designed and most likely split up for smaller developments, Rosenfeld said in a follow-up interview. That process will likely involve developers buying the land, doing preliminary work and then reselling subdivided parcels to interested companies.

Rosenfeld told the chamber about his marketing plans for the area, saying Maine is not a good place for businesses to make money, but should sell its “quality of life” to major developers.

“The best reason for doing business in Maine” is “quality of life,” Rosenfeld said. “If profit’s the main goal, there are other better places to be.”

Maine has large numbers of elderly and poor people, and a low number of college graduates.

“We are not a particularly skilled population,” he said. “That, unfortunately, does not equip us to compete in the 21st century.”

Making matters worse are the state’s high taxes, long distance from the rest of the country and “limited financial resources” – a few people paying taxes for a very large statewide infrastructure and a lot of demand for increasing services.

But, he said, “Maine can become more prosperous” by investing in education and promoting how nice it is to live here.

He asked chamber members to help his promotional efforts. "Stop badmouthing the state," he said, suggesting they tell businesspeople from other areas of the country why they live here, why they raise their families here and why they are still here.”

Rosenfeld also suggested businesspeople get involved at all levels. At the state and regional level, he suggested supporting regionalization, noting that within 50 miles of Scarborough are more than 100 local governments serving over 600,000 people.

Comparing that to large metropolitan areas with consolidated municipal services, Rosenfeld – himself a former municipal manager – said “there is duplication of services.”

He also suggested people get involved locally, with the town’s Comprehensive Plan Update Committee. That group is reviewing the town’s zoning and will recommend changes to the Town Council. He said they are considering changes to zoning west of the Maine Turnpike, to possibly allow more businesses from Running Hill Road to Exit 42.

And Rosenfeld said business leaders should “help build the best educational system at all levels.”

“We simply can’t skimp on how we fund education and expect to be competitive,” he said.

He also outlined a marketing campaign that is just beginning to pitch development on Haigis Parkway to major developers around the country.

“These are people who can buy 40 acres anywhere in the country,” he said.

He gave out copies of a professionally designed marketing brochure for “Scarborough’s Professional Gateway,” the marketing name for the area near town's Turnpike exit. The road running through it “will always remain the Haigis Parkway,” Rosenfeld said.

He compared the future of the Haigis Parkway area with Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and the Route 128 technology corridor outside Boston, saying he wants to draw “cutting-edge research centers,” “precision manufacturing” and “world-class hospitality ventures” to the area.

To that end, SEDCO will be distributing more than 70,000 of the brochures locally, in “a national mailing to developers around the country” and at trade shows around the country.

Rosenfeld said the lots on Haigis Parkway, and a few along Payne Road that are also part of the region, will take lots of money to develop, even after the town spent $10 million installing water, sewer, gas and electricity.

Half of that cost is being charged to the landowners in a tax-increment financing district deal Rosenfeld authored and presented to state officials for review. He said they didn’t initially understand what he was proposing, because it had never before been done in Maine.

“The owners are sharing the cost of the infrastructure,” Rosenfeld said.

Two of the parkway’s largest landowners – Linwood Higgins’s Three Diamonds Realty and Scarborough Downs – are suing the town, saying the assessment of fees was done unfairly.

Rosenfeld dismissed concerns that the lawsuits could cause developers to be wary of getting involved, saying, “public-private partnerships are really the way to go.”

While he said “any lawsuit has a negative publicity,” the arrangement as it is “in the long run will pay off.”