EASTPORT, Maine — Millennium Marine is up and running in Eastport, building boats for the fishing industry and other applications after setting up shop in vacant space of an industrial building.
Company president and CEO Cory Guimond, a third generation boat builder, announced more than a year ago that his company, based in Escuminac, New Brunswick, would expand to the easternmost city in the U.S.
The company has been operating in Eastport a little over a month. First it spent about six months renovating and equipping 40,000 square feet of space in the Guilford Mill building on the outskirts of town.
Millennium Marine distributes and sells to fisherman and commercial interests all over North America on both coasts. The company designs and builds boats for the fishing industry, search and rescue, research, recreation, and other applications. The newest boat added to the lineup, announced this week, is the “Eastporter” which has been designed for recreation, leisure and coastal cruising.
He considered different towns in Maine to expand his business, said Guimond, discussing the business in his office recently.
“There were many reasons to factor in my decision to move to Eastport,” said Guimond. “One was the quality craftsmanship I believe that I would be able to find here.
“I spoke to some key people in the community, some business people, who assured me that the workforce would not be a problem, and that has proven so.” Guimond has been “very pleased” with the workers he has hired.
The company has 12 people on the payroll. It has hired workers from Eastport, Pleasant Point, and Perry, and other communities, said John Miller, communications director. Employees earn good wages and have access to group insurance and employer-sponsored health savings, and they receive extensive training in multiple skills.
“That number is expected to grow,” said Guimond, “will definitely grow.” He hopes to have 20 or more workers by the end of July, and employment could reach 30 by year’s end.
Another factor in deciding to come to Eastport was the port, which Guimond pointed out is “ideal for shipping boats to Europe.”
“I have historically sold a lot of boats” to Europe, said Guimond. “I anticipate regaining that market share.” The fact that Eastport has a good, ice-free port “was a great advantage.” By contrast, the harbor in Escuminac freezes over during winter.
Another consideration was the tax credits available to his company under the Pine Tree Development Zone program. The state program allows businesses to greatly reduce or eliminate state taxes for up to 10 years in exchange for creating new jobs in certain industries or moving existing jobs to Maine.
Another incentive was a grant that was awarded to refurbish and equip the building. Eastport and Washington County were the recipients of a $1.4 million economic development grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The funds were used to renovate and equip 40,000 square feet of the Guilford Mill building. Ocean Renewable Power Co. originally had intended to use the space but abandoned its plan.
The Millennium Marine shop is “one of the best commercial boat-building operations … anywhere in North America, I would say,” said Guimond. He also invested “well north of a half a million dollars” into the expansion, he said, which was about a year in the planning.
The proximity to his home in Canada was also a factor; Eastport is about a 4-1/2-hour drive from Guimond’s home.
Millennium Marine boats are known for being durable, light, and energy efficient, said Miller, and customers are pleased with the way they perform. “It’s like buying a sweater at (L.L.) Bean’s,” said Miller.
Brett Cunningham is a fisherman from Morro Bay, Calif. Millennium Marine is building a new boat for him, and Cunningham is on-site, helping Guimond’s workers construct his vessel.
Cunningham had seen a few other Millennium Marine fishing boats on the West Coast and has a friend who owns one. He also researched boats on the company’s website, which features videos depicting its boats in real conditions on the water. “You get a good feel for the way it handles,” said Cunningham, who fishes from Canada to Mexico for albacore tuna and squid.
“I decided it would be a good fit,” he said, for his fishing business. When his boat is finished, Cunningham is making plans to cruise it to Galveston Bay, Texas, then have it hauled by truck to the California coast.
His goal for the first year is to build 10 boats, said Guimond, ranging in price from $200,000 to $700,000 and varying from 35 feet to 55 feet.
Guimond wants to grow sales to 40-50 boats annually. “We want to have one boat come out of our shop every week within three years,” he said.
Millennium Marine has been building boats in Canada since the 1940s. Principal markets are the fishing industry and commercial applications, according to Miller. Guimond also expects to build certified passenger vessels, which represent a new market for his company.
“We look forward to building a quality product in a timely fashion here for years to come,” said Guimond.