WESTBROOK, Maine — IDEXX Laboratories CEO Jonathan Ayers said Tuesday’s announced $35 million expansion of the company’s Westbrook headquarters will allow the global veterinary medicine producer space to add as many as 300 jobs in the coming years.
This expected growth, he noted, comes on the heels of a decade in which IDEXX’s Maine work force more than doubled in size — from around 800 employees to about 1,800 — and completed an $80 million construction and renovation project to build up the company’s current Five Star Industrial Park home base.
“It seems like only yesterday we were celebrating the completion of your headquarters and manufacturing facility next door,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said during a Tuesday morning ceremonial groundbreaking for the nearly 108,000-square-foot addition. “That we’re now celebrating an expansion is a testament to the exceptional strategy, talented work force and successful implementation that has allowed this company to become an international leader.”
The facility expansion is a physical embodiment of the pet and farm animal health care business boom, a field in which IDEXX was on the forefront in 1983 and has long reaped the benefits of its early entry. IDEXX revenues have climbed faithfully in recent years along with the industry growth, from just more than $1 billion in 2009 to $1.1 billion in 2010 and more than $1.2 billion in 2011.
Among the jobs headquartered by IDEXX in Westbrook are scientists and laboratory technicians, manufacturers, information technology specialists, communications leaders, financial and legal experts and business developers.
Gov. Paul LePage, state Sen. Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham, and Democratic U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud joined Collins as speakers during the Tuesday event, which culminated in the traditional photo opportunity of the distinguished politicians joining company leaders to shovel dirt, symbolizing the start of construction on the project.
Pingree said she remembered when IDEXX was a five-employee operation set up on the Portland waterfront nearly three decades ago, and she recalled taking livestock blood samples as a farmer and submitting them for research. She called company leaders “visionary” and lauded them for an expansion built to be worker-friendly, complete with a fitness room and outdoor courtyard area.
“When I have the chance to talk with employees here, I always hear glowing things about working for IDEXX,” Pingree said.
To a chorus of laughs, Michaud urged Ayers to locate his company’s next expansion in 2nd Congressional District, which is already home to about 100 IDEXX workers who commute to Westbrook.
“We have plenty of room and I’d be happy to show you around [the district], Jon,” Michaud said.
LePage said the IDEXX expansion represents not just the creation of jobs, “but career paths.”
The governor reiterated calls to implement education programs for teenagers and young adults that reflect the skills needed in today’s work force, noting that companies such as IDEXX need job applicants with medical, technology and engineering training. LePage also said the IDEXX story is a reminder to Maine leaders to focus on policies that encourage the expansion of businesses in the state.
“We spend all of our time chasing around the country enticing new companies to come here, but we need not forget we have a good base already in Maine,” LePage told attendees.
Bartlett joined the other politicians on hand in touting the fact that the new IDEXX facility will be Westbrook’s first building emblazoned with LEED environmentally friendly certification.
“It demonstrates how efficiency can help businesses succeed and sets a shining example [for other Maine companies],” Bartlett said, adding that the expansion “shows that Maine has a bright future in manufacturing, and research and development.”