PORTLAND, Maine — The parent company of Pioneer Plastics Corp. in Auburn plans to close its South Carolina plant and move those manufacturing positions to Maine, where it will get new incentives and said it could employ up to 140 more people over the next two years.
The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development said Monday it worked with Pioneer parent Panolam Industries on state incentives to attract an estimated $1.7 million investment from the company, which plans to close its South Carolina plant and complete its consolidation in Maine by the end of the year.
In a statement, the company said that it plans to make the Auburn plant its primary manufacturer of high-pressure laminate product lines. In 2012, the plant had about 500 employees, making it the city’s fourth-largest employer.
“Building a flagship HPL facility will help us ensure we are best positioned to meet current and future production needs, and the evolving needs of our customers,” said Panolam President Al Kabus in the statement.
The company’s plastics are used as surfaces in applications ranging from emergency rooms to offices and restaurants.
News station WRDW reported the South Carolina operation employs about 230 full- and part-time workers, who it said will have a chance to relocate to openings in Maine and at the company’s other facilities. It has five distribution sites and six other manufacturing sites.
“As with any change of this scope and magnitude, and one that affects people, this decision was difficult, but it is necessary,” said Kabus. “We are very mindful of the impact these changes will have, particularly to our employees, and we are working closely with the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce to proactively assist all employees through this time of transition.”
The addition of jobs at the Auburn plant would bring it in line with its employment levels in the early 2000s. According to the Maine Department of Labor, the company had 617 employees in 2002.
Doug Ray, spokesman for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, wrote in an email Monday that state incentives to the company could include a 100 percent credit on corporate income taxes due one to five years after the expansion, sales tax exemption on personal property purchases for 10 years and an annual payment of 80 percent of the state withholding taxes that employees meeting certain wage requirements pay to the state.
The incentives are part of the state’s Pine Tree Development Zone program.
Gov. Paul LePage lauded the move in the DECD statement.
“For far too long, Maine has been on the losing end of the equation,” LePage said. “Now, instead of seeing jobs move out of state, quality jobs are being moved to Maine from elsewhere.”
Panolam acquired Pioneer Plastics in 1999.