If all goes as planned, the former Wass factory building located at 11 Madison Street near Eastport's downtown will be up and running sometime this summer as a seafood processing facility that is expected in time to employ 15 people. Campobello Holdings is planning to invest nearly $500,000 in building improvements and equipment. The two principals, George Klapischak and Jimmy Wong, have combined their business skills in the venture. Klapischak, based out of New Jersey, is a partner in Seaboard Trade Centers Inc. and Capital District Trade Strategies. While the primary use of the building will be for seafood processing, the business partners expect that down the road additional ventures and subsidiaries will be added to the mix.
"I love Eastport," says Wong. The two were looking for a site that had access to fresh, high-quality seafood for the overseas markets. Wong has been in the seafood business for 35 years. "My people from overseas, they know I will give them a very good product." And to do that it needs to be right off the boat from local fishermen, he notes. He tested some state‑of‑the‑art freezing equipment and sampled the frozen lobster. "It came out so nice," he says. He sent samples out to his customers, and the rave reviews came back. "It is going to be a very exciting venture," he adds of the Eastport business.
Klapischak describes himself as the finance and logistics side of the team. With his international trade background, he knew Eastport was the right place. Searching for a building that could house the processing facility, they found the American Can building owned by Dirigamus. While the two men ultimately decided that the Wass factory better fit their plans, Linda Godfrey, one of the Dirigamus business partners, explains that she and her partners were happy to act as ambassadors to the two men, to talk to them about Eastport, the city's rich culture and history and the goal of developing and keeping both as the city moves forward. The two men also met with former Eastport City Council President Robert Peacock and Passamaquoddy Chief Clayton Cleaves. Klapischak and Wong note how helpful all parties were to their search for a building as well as for a deeper understanding and appreciation for the island community and local fisheries.
Peacock is delighted at the news of the company's decision to locate in Eastport. "It's the same way I feel about any new business coming in. It's great." He says that when the two came to the city he answered a lot of questions about doing business in Eastport -- the fisheries, state agencies -- "stuff I've been doing all my life." He adds, "I'm very happy for the city, for everyone, particularly for lobstermen." The more processing, he explains, the better it is for the local fisheries, and expanding the market to overseas benefits the local economy in many ways.
Wong says, "I want to bring more jobs to the town. I could see when I came there that young people were leaving." He adds, "I'm not a wealthy man. I'm not a developer. I don't want to change the town." But he does hope to create opportunities for his own business and for the city. "They've got good skills," says Peacock. "They know what they're doing."
Right now the company is in phase two of the environmental review necessary for a building on the waterfront. It turns out that a great deal of the water side of the building is on old fill. Currently the Wass factory has about 23,000 square feet of space. "When we improve the property we will have to find where the bedrock is," Klapischak says. Foundation work and equipment loads are a part of the construction still ahead, as well as the logistics of boat and truck access to the property. The permitting and licensing have already begun, but Klapischak expects that work in the building itself should start in late winter, heavy equipment should come in by late spring, and employees will be hired at about the same time. The number of workers could start at about five and ultimately grow to about 15. Wong expects processing to start in the summer. "It's real," Klapischak adds. "We have sales orders," but the permitting and licensing take time and must be done right for the benefit of the long‑term health of the business, he says.
The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and Governor LePage Account Executive Brian Mulligan have worked closely with the company over the last several months to access necessary resources and incentives needed to secure the private investment and job creation. "We have an abundant resource that is coveted around the world," says Governor Paul LePage in a prepared statement. "This new processing facility will serve as a direct link from Maine waters to markets across the globe. A booming fishing and lobster industry is vital to the ongoing success of Maine's economy."