ROCKLAND – After hearing a long speech by one city councilor opposing a Pine Tree Development Zone designation for The Breakwater Marketplace, the council on Wednesday gave its blessing to the request.
Councilor Adele Grossman Faber was the dissenting voter.
“It’s a class act,” Faber said of the four-story renovated Camden Street building, which she recently toured. But the Pine Tree Zone program is “not fair and equitable,” she said.
Adding a building in such good condition that is two-thirds occupied “furthers business inequity,” Faber said, pointing to two vacant call centers in Camden that are in the Pine Tree Zone. She spoke at length about criteria for zone designation.
“I can’t believe I’m hearing a councilor say she wants the jobs to go somewhere else,” Councilor Eric Hebert said.
The council merely gives its support for a Pine Tree Zone candidate, he said. The actual designation is awarded through a process that is finalized by the state Office of Economic and Community Development.
“All we’re saying is we support an idea,” Hebert said.
A startup call center by Rockland Customer Solutions is seeking the Pine Tree Zone benefits. Only certain types of businesses that lease space in the 90,000-square-foot building may qualify for the tax incentives.
The Breakwater Marketplace is already two-thirds occupied with private and state entities that do not qualify for the program. Property owner Stuart Smith, however, hopes to attract more businesses with a Pine Tree Zone label.
Faber grilled David Tassoni, a former MBNA executive, who created Rockland Customer Solutions, asking him numerous questions about his corporation.
If a Pine Tree Zone is ultimately approved for the site, Rockland Customer Solutions will begin operations with 15 employees working in outbound sales calling. Initially, the company will 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 has said.
The focus is on companies with customer bases that demand high-quality interaction, Tassoni said. He hopes to build the call center to 150 employees.
Many of the call center jobs will offer $20,000 base salaries, plus commissions, he said, which could increase pay to between $50,000 and $75,000 annually.
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.