Lobster processor plans expansion on Portland’s waterfront

Posted June 14, 2013, at 2:28 p.m.
Last modified June 15, 2013, at 11:45 a.m.
Shucks Maine Lobster is looking to lease space in this building, the Portland Ocean Terminal, which is located on Portland's Maine State Pier.
City of Portland
Shucks Maine Lobster is looking to lease space in this building, the Portland Ocean Terminal, which is located on Portland's Maine State Pier.

PORTLAND, Maine — Shucks Maine Lobster wants to launch a new processing facility on Portland’s city-owned Maine State Pier, adding jobs and expanding the amount of lobster meat it processes and exports from the state.

The company, which is based in Richmond, is seeking to lease from the city roughly 19,000 square feet in the Portland Ocean Terminal, which is located on the Maine State Pier. The proposed lease would be for 15 years, with the option to expand in the future, according to a memo from Greg Mitchell, Portland’s economic development director, to the Portland City Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee.

The committee unanimously approved the company’s lease at a meeting Wednesday night, according to Nelle Hanig, business programs manager for the city. The full City Council is expected to vote on the lease at its meeting July 15, Hanig said.

If the company’s plans are approved, Shucks Maine Lobster would hire nine full-time and 60 part-time seasonal employees at its Portland location, according to John Hathaway, the company’s CEO. The company’s peak hiring season is from May until January, he said.

The cost to get the Portland facility up and running would be more than $2 million, including slightly more than $1 million to retrofit the space and another $1 million or so for the necessary equipment, Hathaway said.

Shucks currently employs between 65 and 70 mostly part-time seasonal workers at its current processing facility in Richmond, Hathaway said. The new Portland location would be in addition to its existing operations, he said.

“We’re looking at an expansion,” Hathaway said Friday. “We think there’s a lot of potential with value-added Maine lobster. That’s the business we’re in. We are not, nor ever will be, the biggest processor in Maine, but I think we can find markets that aren’t currently being reached and create an economically sustainable business.”

Hathaway declined to say how much lobster the company currently processes from its Richmond facility, but said the Portland expansion will increase by as much as 100 percent the amount of lobster it buys from Maine lobstermen and the amount it processes for sale.

If all goes as planned, he’d expect the company to begin processing in the space during the summer of 2014.

The company’s niche, Hathaway said, is to reach customers outside of the state who want the Maine lobster experience, but without having to go to a grocery store, buy a live lobster out of the tank and take it home and “reenact a lobster bake.”

‘We really feel the future of Maine lobster is in value-added product and that value should be added here in Maine, along with the jobs,” he said.

Part of the reason the company wants to operate on Portland’s working waterfront is to be part of the heritage and story that goes along with it.

“Portland is a great place. It has a great working waterfront. There’s a lot of synergy there for us,” Hathaway said. “It also makes us a small piece of the working waterfront heritage and the story — we believe story of the Maine lobster business is important. It’s one of the greatest stories in whole food world. We want to be part of that. We can tell that story when we bring people in from outside of Maine and educate them about Maine lobster.”

The proposed 15-year lease would be for $10.54 per square foot, which would total $202,208 the first year, according to Mitchell’s memo. The lease would then increase 2 percent each year beginning with Jan. 1, 2014, the memo says.

The city would also retain the right to buy out Shucks’ lease “if there is a change of direction with the Maine State Pier,” Mitchell wrote in the memo.

Shucks wouldn’t be the only seafood processor on the Maine State Pier. Ready Seafood Co. currently leases 11,200 square feet in the building from the city.

The company’s plans for the space will be subject to Planning Board approval, according to Mitchell’s memo.

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