Cory Guimond of Millennium Marine of Escuminac, N.B., will be setting up a boat-manufacturing facility in Eastport, beginning operations this year and eventually hiring approximately 50 people. The news of the awarding of a $1.4 million U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant that had been applied for by the city and county back in 2010 came through on March 19. The funds will be matched with $75,000 from Millennium and will be used to renovate about half of the former Guilford mill on Route 190 for the boatbuilding operation.
After hearing the news, Guimond was on the phone immediately with three potential buyers. He notes that when he told them the news they went to a 99% certainty about buying his boats.
Millennium's Guimond family has been in the boatbuilding business since the 1940s and specializes in custom fiberglass designs ranging from 20' to 60'. It manufactures fishing boats and for the last decade has been designing and manufacturing custom boats for government services and specialty workboats. Its boats are found throughout North America and in parts of Europe. They are used for research, aquaculture, law enforcement, exploration, passenger and cargo carrying.
Eastport City Manager Jon Southern explains that quite a lot of paperwork needs to be filled out before building renovations can start and Guimond settles in. The New Brunswick-based boatbuilder also needs to line up additional paperwork in order to start business on the island city, including articles of incorporation for doing business in the country. He'll be operating the U.S. business with a different name, but he's pretty sure that "Eastport" will be included. He plans on building on the "Made in Maine" brand and the Downeast boatbuilding heritage.
Eastport City Council President Mary Repole says, "We're just thrilled." During a telephone conference call she told Guimond, "It will be great to have you here."
Southern and County Manager Betsy Fitzgerald have worked closely over the past three years to find a tenant for the Guilford mill that would satisfy the EDA grant requirements after their original partner, Ocean Renewable Power Company, withdrew from the application. Fitzgerald says, "It is through collaboration that most things are accomplished." She credits the Eastport city manager and the office of the county commissioners for providing the support needed to see the grant through. In addition, Southern notes that former Senator Kevin Raye and the offices of Rep. Mike Michaud and Senator Susan Collins all approached the EDA in support of the grant application.
Southern will be meeting with the building's other major occupant, Tex-Shield Inc., to address any questions and concerns they may have. When the work does start, the first phase will include a major barrier wall going up next to an existing wall to stop vapor contamination from going from one space to another. New lighting and a ventilation system will be installed, with final work including insulation, furnace upgrades, a mobile rail system within the building for moving boats and a 20' door to accommodate Millennium's larger vessels.
"We want to get the renovations to a point where they can work around Cory so that we can get him in," Southern says.
"I've been searching for a suitable building," Guimond comments. "The Guilford building is the exact size I was looking for" because the layout and size allow for an efficient workspace. Fitzgerald notes, "I cannot think of a better use for the mill building as it acknowledges the past heritage of the area, the present need and availability of skilled workers -- The Boat School students -- and the future of commercial fishing."
The Boat School may figure into Guimond's plans. The Friends of The Boat School are working with the boatbuilder to see if the school's boat shop could be used to build components of his smaller boats until the mill is ready. Guimond notes that having his company build at the school could be an opportunity for training sessions. Friends President Tom Ries agrees that the possibilities are promising.
Guimond will be looking for employees in a few phases, with the first including people with experience in fiberglass composites, laminating, core materials, bonding and grinding. A second phase will include employees for manufacturing hulls that will include body workers, fiberglass laminators and chopper gun operators. When the mill is complete and his manufacturing site and client base are developing, Guimond will be looking for plumbers, electricians, welders, carpenters and people with skills in hydraulics and mechanical systems. "I'll employ local talent," he says. "I need workers who want to work." He adds, "I believe that in Eastport I can find people who want a career and not just a job." While he expects that he'll hire a total of 18 employees in the first year, he envisions that number expanding by 10 a year until he reaches about 50.
Because of the Jones Act, locating his business in the United States opens Guimond's ability to expand his market and greatly eases the sale and transport of boats to U.S. customers. He expects that his larger boats built for carrying passengers and cargo will see sales grow by 30‑40%. "It will open new doors for me." In addition, being in Eastport allows him to be a close drive to the New Brunswick site; provides year‑round water access for boat trials; and gives him access to the Port of Eastport for the shipping of his boats to northern European customers. He had to drop that market when the economy took a nosedive, but now he plans to redevelop it.
Eastport stands to benefit in additional ways, says Southern. "It goes beyond just this business coming to the city. It does a lot more. It shows America that Eastport has attracted these businesses." He adds that the city has seen interest from other businesses as announcements about Millennium and Cate Street Capital make the news. But focusing on the good news of the hour, Repole says, "It will be a very exciting day to see the first Made in Maine boat launched."