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Signs point to robust economy

With new year, Gorham poised for new growth

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Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2013 11:19 am | Updated: 11:38 am, Thu Jan 10, 2013.

GORHAM – With commercial and housing growth upward bound, the economic climate appears to be brightening in Gorham for the new year.

On the horizon are a national pizza business, Papa John’s, and an AT&T store, both opening soon in town. A world leader in microwave transmissions is expanding its plant in the Gorham Industrial Park, and statistics show housing permits rose significantly last year, rebounding after hitting a low in 2008 for the 10-year period beginning in 2002.

In addition, two potential developments – one commercial and another for housing – are under review by the Town Council.

A Gorham business and property owner, Ed Wolak, said  that Papa John’s has already taken possession this month of space in his building that houses his Dunkin’ Donuts on 593 Main Street (Route 25). AT&T should take possession soon, he said. Wolak expected both new businesses would open within a few months.

There are 40,000 people within a 4-mile radius of the location, Wolak said. Wolak said Papa John’s would deliver in both Westbrook and Gorham.

The two new businesses will occupy space that a few years ago housed Community Pharmacy, which moved to another Gorham location. Even with the arrival of two new businesses, Wolak still has space available in his building.

Tom Ellsworth, Gorham economic development director, said last week that Wolak is constructing façade improvements at the building.

South Gorham, with its heavily traveled Route 22, is poised to attract business development. Although it already has a store in Gorham Village, Cumberland Farms  has shown interest in locating a store on property of Hans Hansen near Mercy Gorham Crossing at the intersection of County Road and South Street.

Hansen’s proposal for a contract zone received town approval in 2011. The contract zone, first of several in the area, would allow a variety of businesses, including restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations, and offices.

Town Manager David Cole said this week that the Ordinance Committee met with representatives of Cumberland Farms in late November.

“Currently we are waiting on them to come back to the town and make a request to amend the contract zone,” Cole said. “That request, if or when made, would go to the Town Council to start the process.”

Gorham Planner Tom Poirier said Cumberland Farms is seeking a zoning amendment that would allow parking and gas pumps in front of the building.

And a large housing development, Sawyer Estates, proposed on 104 acres off South Street, is seeking a contract zone. An issue is a sewer line extension.

“In December, the council authorized staff to work on language for a contract zone for the Sawyer Estates subdivision that would incorporate the principles of greater residential development and an extension of sewer down South Street,” Cole said.  “I would expect it to show up at a future Ordinance Committee meeting.”

Industry is expanding in Gorham, too. David Galbraith, Gorham’s zoning administrator, said that Mega Industries, at 28 Sanford Drive in the Gorham Industrial Park, is asking for a 7,400-square-foot expansion to its 30,000-square-foot building. Galbraith described the firm as a global company.

Peter Anania, president of Mega Industries, a leader in manufacturing microwave transmission equipment, presented its proposal to planners in a meeting on Monday.

“We received a large contract,” Anania told the Gorham Planning Board, and his firm’s expansion represents adding more jobs.

Anania said Tuesday the plant has 49 employees and would be adding up to eight more. Anania hopes to start construction, which includes adding another loading dock, in March.

The Mega Industries plant in Gorham was built in 1997. The expansion project appears likely to receive town approval in February.

In another industrial expansion, Town Planner Tom Poirier said Helical Solutions, at 29 Sanford Drive in the Gorham Industrial Park, asked Tuesday for a 3,955-square-foot expansion. The manufacturer of high-performance cutting tools is expected to be on the Planning Board’s agenda in February.

In a proposal for Gorham Village, a Massachusetts engineering firm last year presented a sketch plan for a McDonald’s restaurant at the site of a vacant gas station, but the proposal didn’t meet town standards. Poirier said Wednesday the town hasn’t been contacted since.

In housing, the number of permits in Gorham is up  from a decade low five years ago.

A report compiled by Angela Fall, administrative assistant at the Gorham Code Enforcement Office, indicates that in the calendar year 2012, Gorham issued 57 permits for new, single-family homes and eight condo permits, equaling 65 for the year. The jump up, from a total 35 housing permits issued in 2008, represents an 85.7 percent increase.

Fall reported the town recorded a 10-year high of 193 housing permits in 2002, jumping from 137 in 2001.

In more recent years, the town handled 41 housing permits in 2009 and 65 in 2010, but had slipped to 58 in 2011.

On the commercial side, total permits in 2012, which included changes and additions, jumped up to 39, up four from the 35 commercial permits in 2011, 18 in 2008, 19 in 2009 and a 13 in 2010.

In 2012, Gorham processed 104 total permits, climbing from 93 in 2011. The total number of permits was 53 in 2008.

“We’ve been very busy,” Galbraith said.

Gorham in recent years has actively sought broadening its tax base.

“Gorham is painless in getting permits,” Wolak said. “Very helpful.”

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