BRUNSWICK — U.S. Sen. Angus King discussed concerns about education, taxes and energy with representatives of Molnlycke Health Care during a tour of the company’s Brunswick Landing facility last week.
The Swedish company, which specializes in making high-tech bandages and surgical equipment, has more than 7,000 employees across the globe.
It opened its 79,000 square-foot Brunswick Landing plant, billed as the “most automated advanced manufacturing facility in the world,” in 2013, after investing close to $50 million, mostly in high-tech machinery. The facility employs 48 people.
The company’s development in Brunswick is part of a plan to expand its operations, site director Mark Dignum told King.
“The ambition of the business is to double in size by 2020,” Dignum said.
While there is only one weekday shift, Molnlycke’s growth could bring the facility up to capacity, Dignum added.
“There’s nothing stopping us from going 24/7,” he said.
The bandages made in Brunswick include foam produced at Molnlycke’s companion facility in Wiscasset, which has doubled in size and now employs 86 workers.
One of the selling points of Molnlycke’s bandage products is the specialized adhesive that bonds to flesh, but can be pulled off cleanly, without pain or trauma.
To prove its unique properties, Quality Director Todd Buchheit tore open a sample and pasted it on King’s hand. Then he removed it without producing the expected gasp that usually accompanies tearing off a bandage.
“That’s the most high-tech Band-Aid out there,” King said. “That’s miraculous.”
While the company now produces for institutions like hospitals, it’s intent is to release a consumer version of the bandage, and has already “signed on the dotted line” with the CVS pharmacy chain, Dignum said.
Molnlycke officials also warned that finding qualified employees in Maine could be difficult, a message King said he has had heard from businesses across the state.
Human resources director Lise Lutterman said it takes six months to a year to hire qualified manufacturing employees.
“That’s ridiculous,” King said. “That’s a huge barrier.”
The concern, Dignum noted, is that if a qualified workforce is unavailable, the company may look outside the state to establish future manufacturing facilities.
Although his influence on the issue is limited, King suggested partnering with schools like Southern Maine Community College to develop a “seamless” connection between what students are learning and the skills industries need. King also suggested Molnlycke look at prospective employees in Bucksport, where a central paper mill was recently shut down.
“Everyone is for economic development and expansion, but if you can’t find the people, you can’t grow,” King said.
He also spelled out his plan to amend the medical device tax in the Affordable Care Act, which has an impact on companies like Molnlycke.
Instead of attempting to repeal the provision entirely, which would leave a $30 billion revenue hole, King said he is floating a proposal to exempt the first $2.5 million in sales, limiting the tax impact on smaller manufacturers.
Further, finding ways to lower costs of energy, particularly natural gas, for businesses in Maine is a top priority, King said. The state’s pipeline infrastructure needs improving to bring cheaper energy to the state, he noted.
King also had a private discussion with Molnlycke officials on their concerns about federal regulatory agencies.
U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, left, tries out one of the high-tech wound-care bandages manufactured by Molnlycke Health Care, during a tour of its Brunswick facility Jan. 30. With King is Todd Buchheit, the company’s quality director.