A Quality Workforce
Central Maine is home to a highly skilled and educated workforce and employers claim a state-bred work ethic that is second to none. The Augusta/Waterville region makes up the second largest labor market in Maine. The immediate labor force is more than 72,000 with an additional 53,000 within a short, predictable 35 to 45 minute commute.
Opportunities in Education
Colby College in Waterville, and the University of Maine at Augusta lead the list of six colleges and universities in the Kennebec Valley region. Along with Thomas College, Mid-State College, Unity College, and the Kennebec Valley Community College, these institutions are key to educating workers and decision-makers of the future. All facilities are ready, willing and able to develop special training programs for businesses. In addition, secondary educators thoughout the region are working with businesses to assure a strong school-to-workplace relationship. Educational facilities in the Kennebec Valley region complement other colleges in the state of Maine including the University of Maine system and Bates and Bowdoin.
Huhtamaki Food Service, Inc.
Huhtamaki, formerly The Chinet Company, now a world leader in the manufacturing of molded wood pulp products, was 100 years ago only an idea in the mind of Martin Keyes, a 52-year old paper mill superintendent, inventor, and skilled mechanic. The more than 600 items produced by the company today in five plants in Maine to California and in production facilities in ten countries abroad had their start when Keyes designed the first machine capable of molding wood pulp into paper pie plates.
Watching workmen in a veneer plant eating their lunches from scraps of maple veneer gave Keyes his inspiration to invent a machine that would compress ground wood pulp into sturdy finished plates by molding them to form. Cheap plates stamped out of heavy paper stock were already on the market, but they were flimsy and absorbent and apt to give way at a critical moment.
Luckily, Martin Keyes had determination and resourcefulness to match his inven-tive skills. He was obliged to fight patent infringement in court, raise capital for production, and work out the problem of introducing a new product that cost twice as much as those on the market. Meanwhile, he hired and trained workmen, hired assistants, and supervised production and marketing.
He met these difficulties so effectively that five years later, in 1908, he had achieved a fine new plant in Waterville, Maine, and his enterprise was clearly a success. After the death of Keyes, Dr. George C. Averill, his son-in-law and treasurer of the company, became president. The company prospered under his leadership and in 1927 sold for $4 million to a group of Maine men headed by the State’s foremost industrialist, Walter Wyman, who became the new president and immediately set about expansion. During the Depression, the company narrowly avoided bankruptcy, but under the general leadership of Walter Parsons, later the president, it survived and began to expand its product line to include packaging for such items as eggs, bottles, electric bulbs and fluorescent tubes. Plant pots, berry baskets, apple trays, and dishes in many sizes and shapes also were produced and marketed.
Cafeteria serving trays made of a plastic combined with wood pulp were in pro-duction shortly after World War II. During the war, the company made pistol grips and caps for naval shells in substantial quantity.
The first increase in production facilities was in Waterville, Maine, followed by the addition of plants in Indiana, California, Washington State, and Alabama. Today, Huhtamaki is a member of the Van Leer Group and employs approximately 650 people in the mid-Maine area. The products are numerous, and you may already be using them in your home. Best known to consumers are four-up carriers used by fast food restaurants and Chinet plates used at family picnics across the country. In Waterville, Huhtamaki also produces a large percentage of the frozen food trays used in America.
The stability of Huhtamaki has kept people living and working in mid-Maine. Huhtamaki was the 1991 Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year award recipient.
Below is a listing of the top 23 largest employers in the greater Waterville region.
1. MaineGeneral Medical Center *
2. T-Mobile *
3. Colby College *
4. HealthReach Network *
5. Inland Hospital *
6. Hannaford Supermarket *
7. LL Bean *
8. Central Maine Railroad
9. Shaw's Supermarket
10. Wal-Mart *
11. Mid-State Machine *
12. Sheridan Corporation *
13. Affiliated Healthcare Systems
15. Mount St. Joseph Nursing Home
16. Kennebec Valley Community Action Program *
17. Care & Comfort, Healthcare Temps *
18. Thomas College *
19. City of Waterville *
20. Orion Rope Works
21. The Woodlands Residential Care
22. Northeast Laboratories *
23. Central Maine Newspapers *
* denotes Chamber member