Maine’s manufacturing industry is seeing a recovery after a difficult last decade. That’s the conclusion of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce following a recent meeting as reported by BangorDailyNews.com. Several companies have seen an uptick in sales including Hinckley and Old Town Canoe.
Hinckley, a maker of luxury yachts, employed more than 200 workers at its production site in Trenton in 2005, according to plant manager Andy Fitzpatrick. The recession hit hard, and by 2009, they employed just 20 people in Trenton.
But the recession has boosted competition, and companies have had to be more inventive.
“We’ve seen a resurgence in the market,” Fitzpatrick said during Wednesday’s forum. “Hinckley has had to reinvent itself and focus on innovative, high-value products.”
Now Hinckley’s Trenton facility employs about 180 people. Altogether, the company has nine East Coast locations and employs 450 workers.
At the forum, Tim Magoon, director of operations at Old Town Canoe, spoke about how his company has reduced costs, the website reports. In 2009 they cut employee hours and had to relocate from their historic site at Middle Street Factory.
The new location taps into natural gas lines, so is inexpensive to heat. Included are energy-saving motion-detecting lights. “It’s all about energy right now,” Magoon told the website. “Old Town Canoe gave the composite canoe industry its start in the 1970s and needs to continue to evolve and innovate,” he said. “Being ahead of the curve is key to survival in manufacturing,” Also speaking at the forum was John Karp, interim director of the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership, an organization geared toward supporting small- and medium-sized manufacturing businesses. Karp is also CEO of Lewiston-based Bourgeois Guitars, which crafts high-end guitars.
“The company makes only about 400 guitars per year,” Karp said, “and relies heavily on creating instruments that are unique and desirable because of their high quality and production standards.”
“I’d say manufacturing is a great place to look for a career,” Karp said. “It’s strong and getting stronger. As the business climate improves and evolves, manufacturers will be searching for qualified engineers and craftsmen,” he said.
In agreement were Magoon and Fitzpatrick. Their companies have reached out to universities, colleges and technical schools seeking out qualified workers.
For example, Hinckley has partnered with Eastern Maine Community College. They have announced an upcoming woodworking and cabinetmaking program that Fitzpatrick hopes will recruit skilled workers.
Maine’s manufacturing industry will have to continue to apply innovation and cutting-edge practices with their products, budget, and facilities to reach their top-selling potential. So far, they are starting to make a comeback.
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