AUGUSTA, Maine — A West Coast-based company that last year reopened a Fort Fairfield potato-starch factory is set to invest as much as $1 million in upgrades and training at the Aroostook plant and hire as many as five new employees, according to state officials.
Western Polymer Corp.’s investments over the next five years will include improvements to the former Aroostook Starch Co. building, the purchase of new machinery, equipment and electronics, and employee training, according to a written statement from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. In making the announcement, the agency stated that Western Polymer, which has its corporate headquarters in Moses Lake, Wash., recently was certified as eligible to receive economic development incentives from DECD.
“Drawing new private investment to Maine is a vital strategy for our continued economic progress,” Gov. Paul R. LePage said in the statement. “As I often say, investment goes where it is welcomed and stays where it is appreciated.”
Western Polymer Corp. acquired the Aroostook plant and equipment just before the Independence Day holiday last year and reopened a week later in order to continue processing food-grade potato starch used mainly in paper processing.
The Aroostook Starch Co. facility had been shut down since May and the new company hired back 10 of the former employees.
Lynn Townsend-White, president and CEO of Western Polymer, said in a statement on Tuesday evening that she was happy with the DECD project.
“We have worked with paper mills in Maine, but have never had a facility any further east than North Dakota,” she said. “Since Maine is another potato-producing region, it was a good strategic move for our company. Although our concentration has primarily been in providing industrial-grade potato starch to the paper industry, our Maine plant allows us the opportunity to diversify by manufacturing food-grade potato starch.”
She added that the company has “invested heavily in upgrades to the plant and employees. DECD’s programs of assistance will help us to be more competitive.” With the investments, the firm also may hire as many as five new employees in the next few years.
The company’s relationship with the DECD is maintained through Brian Doyle, one of the agency governor’s account executives. Doyle reached out to the company shortly after its arrival in Maine and was able to help solidify its application for DECD-approved aid, and will remain a liaison to the company moving forward.
“We’re very excited for opportunities to help generate job and business growth in Maine,” said DECD Commissioner George Gervais. “By way of our versatile economic tool kit and our knowledgeable governor’s account executives, companies like Western Polymer are assured that the state of Maine will provide whatever assistance and support is available to help them compete. It’s a win-win for the people of Fort Fairfield and, indeed, for all of Maine.”