High-tech Manufacturing Thrives in Maine Capital
The City of Augusta is not the high-tech manufacturing capital of the universe… yet. Well, true, it may never be. But, the Pine Tree State Capital is seeing some significant transition in the area of manufacturing.
We’ve lamented the loss in the past few decades of our labor intensive factories that produced huge quantities of paper, shoes and textiles. And, yet, we’ve seen a positive transition in the city with the advent of more service industries, large and growing distributors and a flourishing growth of retail trade which now serves a market nearly 20 times the size of Augusta’s population.
Meanwhile, bubbling beneath the surface of Augusta Micropolitan’s $900 million retail sales economy is a powerful resurgence of manufacturing that requires skills never dreamed of a dozen years ago.
These smallish manufacturers are operated by some visionary entrepreneurs who try to stay a few steps ahead of the trends and make sure their businesses attract high quality workers, install latest in technology and reach out to serve global clients.
One example is Kennebec Technologies
, owned and run by Charles “Wick” Johnson. Kennebec Technologies produces precision parts for the global aeronautics and space industry with clients in Sweden, California and places between. Johnson this month tells Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce ( www.augustamaine.com
) members at a Business Insider breakfast seminar how important it is to stay very competitive through innovation and engagement of quality workers.
Johnson also stresses the importance of Augusta’s open arm efforts to assist when he moved his business here a number of years ago. Many of his highly-trained technical workers attended Augusta schools and have developed the special skills required to operate extremely sophisticated equipment to make “perfect” machined products such as those that will play a key role in safe landings of Boeing’s newest aircraft. Johnson is currently expanding his factory in Augusta to accommodate growth. www.kennebec.com
Augusta was fortunate a year ago when a small high-tech business moved from Louisiana lock stock and barrel to a newly constructed facility in North Augusta where its workers design, manufacture and install complex electronic devices in cars and trucks to allow people with disabilities to “drive by wire.” Scott Bolduc, owner of Bolduc Technology Group wanted to bring the business back to his home state and in the process has brought high-tech jobs to the capital.
Last summer, Bolduc announced a new relationship with Boeing Company which can possibly mean even greater job creation in Maine. Bolduc is working with Boeing to design, manufacture and install “drive by wire” electronics and other devices such as RPV (remotely piloted vehicles) in Boeing’s military vehicles used in war zones. This new relationship could lead to greater safety for American troops and increased job opportunities in Maine. www.bolductechnologygroup.com
Ken Priest runs Kenway Corporation
, a major manufacturing operation in Augusta with a 60-year history producing elaborate fiberglass equipment for the paper, power, marine and renewable energy industries as well as other clients throughout the US. Several years ago he acquired the Maritime and Maritime Skiff line of power boats, making our capital city one of Maine’s largest boat manufacturers. Kenway’s focus in recent years has been to diversify into advanced composites; the company is working with concepts that will build anything from large wind blades, to bridges, to parts for the US Navy right here in Maine. www.kenway.com
NextEra Energy Resources last year built a new Maine headquarters just across the line in Hallowell where it consolidated many of its 150 high quality Maine jobs. While not manufacturing products here in the capital, NextEra is Maine’s largest manufacturer of green energy from some 22 hydroelectric stations purchased from Central Maine Power Company in 1999. NextEra has invested nearly $1 billion in its operations and has increased the output of these facilities by using the latest in technology for efficiency and economy.
NextEra has produced nearly two billion kilowatt-hours of energy a year from these renewable energy facilities. Business Director Chad Clark credits innovation, entrepreneurship and a strong work ethic among his fellow professionals as they balance green power generation with good stewardship and a keen sense of protecting the environment www.nexteraenergyresources.com
These are just a few examples of some of the exciting new-age manufacturing in Maine’s capital. A few others include J.S McCarthy Printers
which employs very high-tech processes and quality workers to produce tons and tons of quality printed paper products for clients throughout the country. JS McCarthy is installing a Japanese-produced hybrid UV ink technology printer that will be the first configuration of this type in the world, used for very high end printing applications www.jsmccarthy.com
. Cives Steel New England Division
’s manufacturing facility here along the Kennebec River in Augusta fabricates large steel beams to fit perfectly into place in the construction of skyscrapers and other large buildings in cities like Boston and Hartford www.cives.com/new-england
Cives depends upon highly-skilled workers and very high precision equipment to be competitive.
Other high-tech manufacturers in the area include Winthrop’s Alternative Manufacturing, Inc.
(AMI) which produces circuit boards and other items for global clients http://amiems.com
and North Monmouth’s Tex Tech Industries
, not only the world’s largest producer of tennis ball felt, but also manufacturer of more than three million yards of aircraft-seat fire blocking material www.textechindustries.com
No, we’re not the high-tech capital of the universe, perhaps. But, Augusta has large numbers of people looking at how to do things better, how to become more competitive in the global market, how to assure a quality workforce for the future and how to foster an even stronger sense of entrepreneurship and innovation that helps us survive and thrive in this beautiful little corner of the world.
By the way, thanks in part to these and hundreds of other businesses and organizations in the Kennebec Valley, the Augusta Micropolitan currently has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state at 6.4 percent, tied with York, and slightly off the Portland Metropolitan’s 6.0 percent. Meanwhile, Maine State unemployment is at 7.4 percent and the US figure is at 9.3 percent.