EASTPORT, Maine — A long-established Canadian boat-building firm is expanding its operations to the Washington County community of Eastport later this year, a project expected to create as many as 50 jobs.
New Brunswick-based Millennium Marine has been building boats in Escuminac since the 1940s and now produces a line of custom-built fiberglass boats that range in hull size from 25 to 60 feet. The firm’s inventory of boat options caters to the nautical needs of fishermen, law enforcement agencies, marine research organizations, divers, charter operators and other customers worldwide. Retail prices of the firm’s boats range from $300,000 to $700,000, depending on how they are customized and powered.
The expansion of what will be called Eastport Maine Composite is being bankrolled with the help of a $1.4 million federal economic development grant recently awarded to Eastport and to Washington County by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Those funds and $75,000 being put up by Millennium will be used to retrofit 40,000 square feet of the 60,000-square foot Guilford Mill on Route 190 to accommodate boat production.
“Millennium’s custom-built boats and their hull designs have been widely accepted in northern Canada, the West Coast from California to Alaska, in Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Denmark and in the U.K.,” Cory Guimond, the firm’s president, said. “Another product that we will be manufacturing is the Donelle Series and, more specifically the Donelle 35 Sport, which will be sold to many parts of the U.S., the Caribbean and in Europe.”
Guimond said the jobs this project creates all will year-round, full-time positions with benefits, paying between $12 and $20 an hour. He hopes to see the facility up and running sometime this year, he said.
Guimond said the Eastport facility’s proximity to the city’s deep-water port was one of the major deciding factors for expanding to Washington County.
“Another factor is the fact that the harbor [in Escuminac] freezes over for four months each winter, where we have been building boats for decades,” he said. “Other factors included lower cost of boat-building materials compared to Canada, better access to a skilled workforce, and a weakened U.S. dollar that makes products manufactured in America more competitively priced in the world market.
“Selling boats has never really been a problem in Canada,” he said Friday. “Finding enough qualified workers has been the challenge. Company growth was set by the availability of a willing workforce.”
Guimond said the process of expanding to the U.S. has been relatively hassle-free.
“There have been no real hassles in setting up shop as a Canadian firm,” he said. “The new company will, of course, be registered in the state of Maine and will operate under Maine and federal laws while employing residents of Maine. Every department I have dealt with has been most accommodating in making this expansion as easy as possible.”
Eastport City Manager Jon Southern said Thursday the $1.4 million federal grant that made the expansion possible was two years in the making.
“We were looking for a project that was suitable for the Guilford Mill after Ocean Renewable Power Company [which manufactures underwater turbines in Eastport] announced they had no intention of using it,” Southern said. “This was a large commercial boat manufacturer that had been trying to expand to America for some time.”
Chris Gardner, chairman of the Washington County Board of Commissioners and the director of the Eastport Port Authority, said Friday that the Millennium-Eastport expansion is a win-win proposition.
”For many years, the port has shipped yachts overseas,” he said. “Not on a big scale, but still it’s a service we can provide given our experience and ability to load yachts.”
Gardner said that the prospect of 50 new jobs is a very big deal for Washington County.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Even five or 10 jobs is a big deal. This helps not only the City of Eastport, but the whole county. Maine has a long and proud historical tradition of boat building, and Eastport certainly been a part of that. This is a natural fit as this Canadian company expands.”