ROCKLAND — Since winter storms twice have blown away plans by the decision-makers of Van Baalen Co. to come here, city and state officials will mush on down to New York City next week to talk the company into staying in Rockland.
A meeting Friday morning with company officials was canceled after Thursday’s combination of snow, sleet and freezing rain prevented their travel from New York headquarters. A previous Thursday storm killed the first planned meeting last month.
Barring a plague of locusts, a Maine delegation is set to take its case to New York next Tuesday. The lineup so far consists of Rockland City Manager Cathy Sleeper, Sen. Chellie Pingree, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Michael Aube and David Cole of Eastern Maine Development Corp.
A major Rockland employer since 1939, Van Baalen stunned the city in January with the announcement that it may have to move because of high transportation costs and its need to expand, taking more than 125 jobs with it. Van Baalen is a subsidiary of New York-based State-o-Maine, an apparel manufacturer and marketer.
Most of Van Baalen’s clothing comes from the Far East, shipped into West Coast ports. From there, it is shipped by rail to New Jersey and trucked to Rockland.
Van Baalen also has outgrown its building in Rockland’s industrial park. The company says a major investment here in the new 400,000-square foot building it needs might be too great when combined with its transportation costs.
While the Tuesday trip is still tentative, Sleeper said the Maine delegation “is ready to do whatever we can to convince Van Baalen why they should stay in Maine, why they should stay in Rockland. We will make sure a meeting takes place as soon as possible. Eventually, we have to run out of storms.”
Sleeper said the delegation’s presentation will go far beyond mere pleading to keep the jobs here. “We’ve put together a lot of information on various financing and assistance programs by the state and other agencies that can make it attractive for manufacturers to expand here. We also have a list of several possible sites that we think could meet their needs. I think we have a good proposal; all we need now is a chance to sit down with the company and talk about it.”
Sleeper said seven available parcels of land, all privately owned, have been located that could meet the company’s need for about 40 acres served by city utilities and three-phase power.