Front Street Shipyard applying for $200,000 development grant

Company seeking to acquire Belfast Boatyard property
By Ben Holbrook | Jul 10, 2012

Belfast — Front Street Shipyard is seeking a $200,000 Community Block Grant as part of a move to expand its boat repair facilities and acquire property owned by Belfast Boatyard.

Front Street Shipyard is applying for a direct business gap financing support grant, which is one of three subsections of the CDBG grant application. With an estimated project cost of $400,000, the maximum funding awarded under the grant is $200,000. Front Street Shipyard will contribute $200,000 as a match, per the requirements of the CDBG grant application.

If awarded, Front Street Shipyard will use the funds to purchase a used 30-ton capacity crane; a new custom-heated spray booth; relocate the existing Belfast Boatyard office building; repair and strengthen the existing Belfast Boatyard wooden dock and form and pour a concrete pad to support the crane.

J.B. Tuner, general manager at Front Street Shipyard, said the company has not finalized a purchase & sales agreement with Belfast Boatyard, as details of the potential deal are still being discussed. He did explain that one of the terms of any agreement would be that Front Street Shipyard hire as many of Belfast Boatyard’s employees as possible.

Since opening the facility, Front Street Shipyard has invested $10 million into its property and employs 73 full-time workers, according to the project documents. The company also anticipates adding 10 more full-time positions as a result of the expansion.

Those positions include one marine rigger; two marine mechanics; two yard workers at , three painters at and two marine carpenters. The positions pay between $14 and $20 per hour. When benefits are factored into the hourly salary, each position’s hourly pay increases by about $2.

Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge explained that one of the grant requirements stipulates a business has to create one full-time position for every $30,000 in funding received. He also noted that the salaries paid by Front Street Shipyard exceed the average county salary.

“These jobs pay above the county average, which means they aren’t just creating jobs; they are creating well-paying jobs,” Kittredge said.

Turner said a significant driving factor for trying to acquire property owned by Belfast Boatyard is the depth of water off the bulkhead on the property. Having access to deeper water would make it easier for the company to repair larger vessels, such as the 80-foot Swan that is scheduled to arrive this summer.

Turner also noted that a lack of storage has forced the company to look quickly and aggressively at property acquisition, especially with off-site storage. Turner said the company rented space on Route 137 for small boat storage, but it is still in need of more space for doing other boat work.

“I foresee that facility [Belfast Boatyard] as being used for a lot of mast work,” Turner said.

Councilors voiced several concerns regarding the proposed funding request because of the recent news that Gov. Paul LePage froze the city’s $400,000 CDBG grant for the Harbor Walk project.

Kittredge said there is some concern that the funding could meet a similar fate, but he did not anticipate CDBG grants being targeted at this time. However, Councilor Mike Hurley said the Tea Party previously identified the grants as a possible area to cut during the 2010 election.

“I’m worried the governor has that in his sights,” Hurley said.

In addition to funding concerns, Councilor Roger Lee asked Turner if Front Street Shipyard would provide similar services to those Belfast Boatyard provided, such as boat delivery.

“They would haul boats all over Waldo County. Is that something you don’t do?” Lee asked.

Turner said the company doesn’t have the capability at the moment to deliver boats, as it only has a 60-ton trailer, which is used to move boats around in the yard and can only travel at a maximum of 7 mph.

“That would make for a long trip to Appleton,” Turner said.

However, he said the company is looking at hiring Belfast Boatyard’s employees and one of those employees drives the truck to deliver boats.

Councilors unanimously approved a request to send a letter of intent seeking the $200,000 grant. The next step will be to see if Front Street Shipyard is invited by the state to submit a full application. If the company receives the grant, the funding would be given to the city, and then be distributed either by Kittredge or through the treasurer’s office.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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