Brunswick business proves foreign investments can boost local economy

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BRUNSWICK — Less than a year after breaking ground at Brunswick Landing, Molnlycke Health Care was named Foreign Direct Investor of the Year by state officials, highlighting a rarely appreciated sector of the state’s economy.

George Gervais, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, gave Molnlycke and three other businesses special recognition on Maine International Trade Day, May 24, in Rockport.

The company manufactures and sells wound-care products around the world.

When Molnlycke came to Brunswick in July 2011, company representatives said the deal would bring 100 jobs and $37 million to the area.

Emily Butcher, a spokesperson for Molnlycke, said that plans are running behind the original timetable, which called for completion of the project by July, but the company still expects to reach those benchmarks by the end of the year.

“We’re going to keep pushing for more,” she said.

Foreign direct investing companies are important to the U.S. economy, and were worth $328 billion in 2008, according to a recent report by the Department of Commerce.

According to the the report, FDI is responsible for 2 million manufacturing jobs across the country. And jobs at U.S. affiliates of foreign-owned companies pay 30 percent more than the national average.

With ties to international markets, the companies are also more resilient than many companies in the face of a local economic downturn: the Department of Commerce found that workers at these businesses experience fewer layoffs than their counterparts at domestic-owned companies.

Molnlycke became invested in Maine as part of a desire to control its own supply chain, Butcher said.

Brunswick-based Rynel used to manufacture the foam that Molnlycke uses in its wound-care products; rather than continue to purchase the product from Rynel, the company decided to purchase the company itself.

“We used to purchase from them; now we decided to invest in them,” Butcher said, adding that Molnlycke now sells foam to other companies around the world.

The foam produced in Brunswick is shipped to a plant in Finland, where it is combined with other elements and turned into the final product.

But Butcher said that the shipping is both costly and time-consuming, with a two-week overseas journey for each shipment.

When the new facility at Brunswick Landing is completed, the material will no longer have to be shipped to Finland; instead, the completed wound-care products will be fully assembled in the U.S.

While the overall effect of foreign investment on the US is significant, the majority of the impact is generated by a handful of countries.

In 2010, according to the Commerce report, 84 percent of foreign investments came from just eight countries, with Switzerland heading the list.

The other significant investors were the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Canada.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @hh_matt.