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MMA may lay off up to 50 employees after bus renovation project

LIMESTONE, Maine — When the Maine Military Authority completes its Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority bus renovation project in a few weeks roughly 50 employees may be out of work. 

The project began in 2014, when MMA signed a $19 million contract to overhaul 32 transit buses. Officials determined in 2016 that the project was more costly than initially anticipated, but Gov. Paul LePage and state lawmakers ultimately saved the contract and jobs by approving a $7 million rescue package.

In addition, the newly formed Loring Industries LLC on the former Loring Air Force base entered into an agreement with MMA to supply some of the specialized parts required to complete the bus contract.

Tim McCabe, head of business development with Loring Industries, confirmed on Friday that while the MMA project is “coming to a close in the next month or two,” he is currently in the process of hiring some of the MMA employees before the project’s end to assist in some of Loring Industries’ upcoming projects.

“We have about 15 of our own people moved over to other projects,” he said, “and we have more coming, but we can’t count our chickens before they hatch.”

Currently, Loring Industries is working on buses for Motor Coach Industries and is in the process of finalizing other contracts. McCabe said that “more business is coming down the road,” but that he can’t go into detail until everything is official.

Efforts were unsuccessful this week to obtain comment about the future of MMA from MMA Executive Director Tim Corbett and from Major General Douglas Farnham of the Maine National Guard, which oversees MMA.

McCabe said MMA is currently employing “around 50” people, many of which are “very talented.”

“I want to get some more work so we can use them,” he said, “but having the contract in hand is what it’s all about. As those projects come, we will be looking for people to hire. The folks at MMA have the talent we need.”

Loring Development Authority President and CEO Carl Flora said on Thursday that he has “indirectly” heard about MMA letting go of employees at the end of the MBTA project, and that he is aware that officials have recently notified their employees about the situation.

Like McCabe, Flora hopes that Loring Industries will “be able to step into the void and absorb some, maybe not all, but certainly some of the employees from MMA.”

He said Loring Industries is close to finalizing an additional contract that will “hopefully increase the volume of work,” for both Loring Industries and MMA employees. As far as MMA, he said there “may still be some activity,” but that it will likely not amount to anything close to the scale of the MBTA project.

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