ROCKLAND – Breakwater Marketplace owner Stuart Smith has pitched his Camden Street property for a Pine Tree Development Zone designation to attract a start-up call center and other businesses.
On Wednesday, Smith told city councilors that the designation and accompanying tax incentives would only apply to certain businesses in the 90,000-square-foot, four-story building that already houses Breakwater Bookland & Cafe and various state and private offices.
The University of Maine Thomaston Center and Kennebec Valley Community College are also negotiating to occupy a portion of the fourth floor.
According to Smith, retail businesses, state offices and the colleges would not qualify for the Pine Tree Zone benefits.
Councilors have called a public hearing for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, to present the request.
The designation is initially aimed at attracting Rockland Customer Solutions, a new business created by David Taconic, a former MBNA executive.
Taconic, who worked for MBNA for 17 years, came to Maine in 1996, where he eventually became regional manager, he said Thursday.
The business is a sister company to Rockland Partners Consulting LLC, which he also heads.
Rockland Customer Solutions will begin operations with 15 employees working in outbound sales calling. For example, the business plans to sell travel packages for a national travel services provider and eventually may assist insurance companies in health care processing or providing customer contact for financial services businesses, he said.
The focus is on companies with customer bases that demand high-quality interaction, Taconic said. Taconic’s “goal” is to build the call center to 150 employees.
Obtaining the Pine Tree Zone tax incentives is “the only way I can compete nationally,” he said.
The jobs he is creating will offer base annual wages of $20,000, plus commissions, he said, which could increase those annual salaries to between $50,000 and $75,000.
In order to attract good employees, they must be paid well, he said, which requires costs to be reduced somewhere else, such as through tax incentives.
In July, the City Council approved placing the waterfront MBNA property, now owned by Bank of America, into the Pine Tree Zone. The next step is to gain approval from the Miscast Pine Tree Development Zone Council.
According to a state Web site, the following Rockland properties have Pine Tree Zone designation: the Bonner Vaster parcel, 20 New County Road; Nautical parcel, owned by Saber Yachts, 23-25 Merrill Drive; Central Distributors property, 62 Holmes St.; Bicknell Manufacturing property, 11-19 Lime St.; Passamaquoddy Nation parcel, 64 Atlantic Avenue; and Sewall property, 342 Park St.
The Pine Tree Zone initiative supports new qualified business activity in Maine by offering manufacturers, financial service businesses and targeted technology companies the chance to greatly reduce, or in some cases, virtually eliminate state taxes for a period of time that may be up to 10 years, according to the state’s Web site.
At the Oct. 18 public hearing, the council will vote on a resolve to move the request forward to the council. Once the council approves a request, an application is filed with the state Office of Economic and Community Development.