ST. GEORGE, Maine — A seafood processing plant that opened less than four years ago with the hope of bolstering the lobster industry is closed and up for auction.
Sea Hag Seafood’s plant and 7.5 acres of waterfront property at the mouth of Long Cove in Tenants Harbor will go up for auction on June 17.
Kyle Murdock opened the plant in September 2012 when he 23. The project’s financing included a nearly $1.7 million loan from Camden National Bank and a $400,000 grant through the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.
The grant money was provided to the company after it created 23 jobs for low- and moderate-income workers and after it met the terms of the federal program, said Maine DECD spokesman Douglas Ray. The town of St. George had sponsored the grant application but the town will not be liable for any repayment because the jobs were created.
Efforts to reach Murdock on Wednesday and Thursday by telephone and email were unsuccessful.
Maine Department of Labor spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz said Thursday that there was not a single rapid response session for workers who lost their jobs at the plant because the layoffs were staggered.
“As a seasonally themed business, that pattern was not out of the ordinary in terms of their operation. However, as workers were laid off or as hours were cut, employees did visit the Rockland CareerCenter and Rapid Response did follow up with the employer. Any worker who was laid off can visit their closest CareerCenter for re-employment or other assistance,” the labor department official said.
St. George Town Manager John Falla said that the town was not notified about the closure and that all he learned through the rumor mill was that the plant has closed.
Records filed in the Knox County registry of deeds office show the Maine Department of Labor placed a lien of $10,166 on the Sea Hag in June 2014 for failure to pay payroll taxes. The department placed another lien of $408 on the company in December 2015 for the same reason.
In a September 2012 interview with the BDN, Murdock, a Monhegan Island native, said while he was at college he became concerned about the fate of the lobster industry. The industry was still feeling the negative effects of the Great Recession that began in 2007 and prices paid to lobstermen had plummeted.
Murdock came from a lobstering family and has gone lobstering with family members. As a youth, he had a student license and fished several traps. He said lobstermen would be helped if there was a local processing plant to buy the product. As much as two-thirds of Maine lobsters at times are sent to Canada to be processed in plants there. Gov. Paul LePage earlier in 2012 had called for encouraging more processing in the state in order to add value to the Maine catch.
Sea Hag Seafood operated in the former Great Eastern Mussel Farm plant, which had been foreclosed on in 2009 by The First bank. The First sold the 7.5-acre waterfront parcel in March 2011 to Shining Sails Inc., which is owned by Kyle’s parents, John and Winifred Murdock.
Murdock said in 2012 that the entire project cost, with the purchase of the property, renovations and equipment, was between $2 million and $2.5 million.