FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — A company based on the West Coast has purchased a potato-starch factory that first opened here in 2001 but since has had difficulty gaining a foothold on shaky economic ground.
Western Polymer Corp., which has its corporate headquarters in Moses Lake, Wash., has purchased the manufacturing plant and equipment of Aroostook Starch Co. and plans to reopen next week.
“The business has been in receivership since May and we were the successful bidders,” Lynn Townsend-White, president and CEO of Western Polymer, said Tuesday. The Fort Fairfield facility “has been shut down since the end of May, and we have hired back most of the employees, which leaves us with approximately 10 people on staff. We plan to open up on July 8 to make some repairs and begin work.”
Western Polymer will continue to process food-grade potato starch at the location after upgrades to the plant and equipment.
The Fort Fairfield acquisition marks the third starch manufacturing site for the corporation. Townsend-White said that acquiring the Maine location will strategically diversify the company, broadening its scope of business across the United States.
Western Polymer’s Moses Lake plant has been operating since 1952 and manufactures industrial starch products primarily used in the paper industry, according to the company. The firm’s second starch plant, built in 2001, is located in Grand Forks, N.D., and processes many of the same starch products as the Moses Lake facility.
Aroostook Starch was founded in 2001 by Nivoba, a firm from the Netherlands, to produce starch from leftover and culled potatoes. When the plant first opened, 35 employees were on staff to help produce 50,000 to 60,000 tons of starch per year. A few years later, the company was acquired by German-based Emsland, which shut down the facility in 2005 after the plant began losing money. Starch Partners LLC took over ownership in 2006.
Townsend-White said that the potato processors in Aroostook County attracted the company to the area, as did the workforce.