OLD TOWN, Maine — Old Town Canoe, long established as a manufacturer of canoes and kayaks, will soon be home to two additional kayak lines.
Johnson Outdoors, the Wisconsin-based corporate parent of Old Town Canoe, announced Tuesday that it will close its kayak manufacturing plant in Ferndale, Wash., and move the production of Necky and Ocean brand kayaks to the new Old Town plant on Gilman Falls Avenue. The move is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
Up to 48 new jobs are expected to be created at the Old Town plant as a result of the consolidation. Johnson Outdoors spokeswoman Cynthia Georgeson said Tuesday that the jobs will be full-time positions with benefits.
The closing of the Ferndale plant will be complete by the end of September. About 90 workers will be laid off.
A few supervisory positions in Old Town may be filled by employees from the Ferndale plant, Georgeson said, but the majority of the positions will be filled locally.
The consolidation of its watercraft division will save Johnson Outdoors an estimated $4 million annually in cost reductions related to improved efficiency at the new manufacturing plant, according to a company statement issued Tuesday afternoon.
The production facility on Gilman Falls Avenue “has been redesigned for maximum production efficiency while reducing energy use by 50 percent,” the statement said.
In addition to expanding production at the Gilman Falls site, the company will fully vacate the century-old Old Town Canoe facility in downtown Old Town by the end of this year. Options for future use of the rambling structure are “under evaluation,” Georgeson said.
Gov. John Baldacci praised Tuesday’s announcement.
“The state of Maine and the city of Old Town have worked very hard with Johnson Outdoors to ensure that Old Town Canoe was the location of choice to house its watercraft business unit in one location,” Baldacci said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “We appreciate the partner we have in Johnson Outdoors and that the company recognizes that Maine’s workforce and craftsmanship are second to none.”
John Richardson, commissioner of the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, said state and local tax breaks, a Community Block Development Grant, and a pledge of state-supported work force recruitment and training helped seal the deal.
U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins also praised the news, calling the announcement “a testament to the incredible work ethic of the current Old Town Canoe workers and the high quality of their production lines.”