Bangor Daily News

LIMESTONE, Maine – The people behind one of Loring Commerce Center’s major new developments plan to begin construction by late July 2024.

Taste of Maine Potato Chip Co., based in Presque Isle, held a kickoff event on the Loring campus Wednesday to celebrate its future $55 million potato chip processing plant. The company is the vision of Falcon Transportation owner Bruce Sargent and colleagues, who hope to be part of revitalizing the former Loring Air Force Base.

The base closed almost 30 years ago, in September 1994.

“I’ve always wanted to do something in agriculture. I farmed for several years before starting Falcon Trucking [now Falcon Transportation],” Sargent said. “We think this [plant] will be good for the region.”

The 80,000-square-foot plant will be built at 250 Northcutt Road, not far from the main entrance to Loring near West Gate Road. The 30-acre site is the former home of the Damon and Corey Schools that taught children of Air Force service members. Taste of Maine currently expects to open the plant in late fall 2025 and begin operations with at least 75 employees.

Jonathan Judkins, Loring Development Authority’s interim president and CEO, said that Taste of Maine fits with Loring’s vision for attracting new agricultural facilities and will be in a prime location on the campus.

“When I first started [at Loring], we identified this piece of land as ideal for manufacturing,” Judkins said.

Taste of Maine held a groundbreaking ceremony at the plant site Wednesday. Sargent said the plant will produce kettle chips made from locally sourced russet and round white potatoes. Bags will include a Taste of Maine logo.

“In the first year, we hope to utilize 1,500 acres of potatoes to start and eventually get close to 3,000 acres,” Sargent said. “We’ve already talked with several local farmers and will see what they’re looking at for a crop in spring 2025.”

Mapleton-based Buck Construction is serving as the project engineers while a potato chip plant developer from Idaho will oversee the project and contribute his expertise, Sargent said.

A solar farm will be constructed nearby and allow the plant to function solely on green energy, Sargent said.

The Taste of Maine site is not one of the 21 locations that are part of an Air Force investigation into the spread of PFAS chemicals at Loring, said Danielle Martin, project manager with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, who oversees environmental cleanups at Loring.

Current and future PFAS research will not affect construction of the potato chip plant, Martin said.