The former Harborside Graphics building in the Belfast Business Park is the focus of a pair of unrelated business proposals, one warm, one ice cold.

A Hancock County businessman hopes to convert the building to a frozen storage facility for agricultural produce of the sort championed by former City Councilor Jan Anderson. The businessman, who asked not to be named because he is currently employed in a similar industry, claims 25 years’ experience in the frozen-food and food-processing industries but said he lacks the $2 million it will take to convert the building into a working facility.

What he does have, he said, is the expertise and connections in the industry. He estimated that the initial investment could be paid back in three years and that the facility could, at the end of that time, be employing 50 to 100 people.

“The state, unfortunately, is not too business-friendly,” he said. “We’ve been working on this for 10 years and we keep running into stops along the way.”

Most recently, the businessman said he was looking to locate the facility in Bucksport, where he said the city offered him free land. He set his sights on Belfast after talking with Anderson, who has been outspoken that a storage facility would allow area farmers to boost production and potentially add value to their crops by preparing and packaging them locally.

Part of the uncertainty, he said, is that farmers are not going to commit to selling a crop to a storage facility that doesn’t exist yet.

“It’s almost impossible to get dedicated crops without having a building. I know I could get some in if I had it up and going,” he said.

Though he said the kind of crops the facility would process remained to be seen, he said the final product would likely be a bagged, frozen vegetable that he hopes would have Belfast somehow incorporated into its brand name.

“We’re not sure how we’d do that because McCrum has “The Belfast” as a brand, so we’d have to use it as a secondary name,” he said.

The businessman said he would not be competing with Penobscot McCrum or other local food-processing companies and would be open to working with them if they needed additional storage.

“I have the resources to get the equipment and get everything set up, but I just don’t have the funding,” he said. “That’s the toughest thing. I can prove that it works, but where do you start?”

The 23,000-square-foot building, located on 6.7 acres at the intersection of Airport Road and Lower Congress Street was most recently occupied by Prismax, U.S. distributor for international company Hot Diamonds. An “H” appearing in the brickwork on the south side of the building refers to the building’s original tenant, Harborside Graphics, with which the building is commonly associated. The property is listed at $650,000.

Initial drawings of the building as a food-processing and -storage facility, provided by the businessman, show a freezer that he said could hold 4.5 million pounds of frozen food added to the outside of the existing structure. The interior of the existing building would contain washing, sorting and packing functions capable of processing 10,000 pounds per hour, offices and meeting rooms.

The Harborside Graphics building has also been looked at by the city of Belfast as a potential site for a small-business incubator, though the city has yet to take any definitive action. The idea first came up in December at a City Council economic development workshop.

At the beginning of March, consultant and former Knox/Waldo Regional Economic Development Council Director Chris Shrum submitted a proposal to the city to study the feasibility and funding potential of a business incubator in the building. Shrum touted his role in the conversion of a 66,000-square-foot shoe factory in Richmond into a “business incubator and commercial condominium of sorts.”

City Councilor Mike Hurley, who brought the idea to the Council, pointed to the building now occupied by Belfast Industries, which was originally built by the city on spec. Hurley said he would be in favor of building another such building if the Harborside Graphics building were not available.

“I think we need a space for small businesses in Belfast. They aren’t there. Nobody’s built them … especially for freight delivery,” he said, referring to the loading docks at the Harborside Graphics building.

City Manager Joe Slocum said the city has not made a decision to invest in the building or to hire Shrum. “But we’re aware that the option exists,” he said.

Slocum confirmed that he had spoken with the Hancock businessman, but would not say more.

“I do believe our regional agricultural economy is an important part of our economy,” he said, “I believe there are opportunities to expand that economy … Belfast is situated well to capitalize on them in the future.”

Unlike the manufacturing or tourist economies, Slocum said the state of the agricultural economy is hard to quantify. “It’s down to one farmer at a time,” he said. “It’s not like you have a business with 100 employees where you can get a snapshot of what’s going on.”

The businessman said he had seen farmers cutting production back over the past 10 years, often to just enough to run a farm stand.

“I think [a food storage facility] would bring a big breath of life into the farm industry, which has really taken a hit here,” he said.