CAMDEN, Maine — The new owner of a long-time Camden manufacturer said he is gambling on the town to expand the business, saving the 29 jobs that remain.
John Rockwell, the president of Albuquerque, N.M.-based Sierra Peaks, met Tuesday night with the Camden Select Board to introduce himself to town officials.
On Jan. 27, Rockwell purchased the assets of Intricon Tibbetts. Tibbetts makes little microphones used for a variety of purposes. The government is one of the chief customers of both Tibbetts and Sierra Peaks.
Tibbetts was founded in Camden in 1945 by Dr. Raymond Tibbetts, a local inventor.
Intricon Corp. of Arden Hills, Minn. purchased Tibbetts in 2007. There were 85 employees at the time.
But within a year of that purchase, Intricon began shifting more of its production overseas, resulting in job losses at the Camden plant. The jobs were being transferred to Singapore, which meant the workers whose jobs were displaced were eligible for retraining and other support under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.
“The loss of employment in the midst of an economic downturn is a devastating reality and these TAA benefits will help the displaced workers find new employment so that they can reclaim their livelihoods,” U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins stated in a joint news release in May 2008.
Rockwell told the Select Board on Tuesday that he wants to grow the company as much as possible. The plant currently employs 29 people but at one time had 130 workers.
“I’m not a venture capitalist who builds a business and then sells it and makes a bunch of money. I create an environment where people can strive and I want that environment to stay for a long time,” Rockwell said.
He said he hopes that the company can grow back to a point where it again employs 130 people.
“It’s my gamble and I’m gambling on Camden,” Rockwell said.
Camden Select Board Chairman Martin Cates praised Rockwell and the town’s Community Development Director Brian Hodges for making the sale succeed. Hodges had been working with Rockwell for the past few months.
Select Board member John French said generations of Camden people have worked at Tibbetts. Rockwell acknowledged that, saying he met a woman who had started working there in 1950.
Select Board member Leonard Lookner thanked Rockwell for recognizing the quality of American and Camden workmanship.
Sierra leases the buildings and said he plans to remain at the site for the long term.