BRUNSWICK — Maine officials often lament the migration of jobs to other states. But here at Brunswick Landing, the business campus taking shape at the former naval air station, a Swedish company is consolidating work done in Minnesota in a new $47 million manufacturing plant. Along with a $5.5 million expansion at a sister plant in Wiscasset, Molnlycke Health Care is making midcoast Maine its North American hub for specialty wound-care dressings for medical centers.

It’s an example of how an overseas investor sees Maine as a good place to create manufacturing jobs in one of the country’s fastest-growing sectors, health care. But to thrive in the long run, Molnlycke will have to overcome a familiar problem in Maine – a shortage of workers interested in high-tech manufacturing.

The United States is Molnlycke’s largest and fastest growing market, and a key element in the global company’s goal of doubling in size within five years.

“This factory is a critical piece of that plan,” said Mark Dignum, the site director at both facilities.

Fifty people work here now, but if the pace of growth continues, Dignum will need to hire another 40 over the next two years and eventually run three shifts in Brunswick. That’s on top of the 85 people already working three shifts in Wiscasset.

Molnlycke operates in 30 countries and came to Maine in 2010, when it bought a factory in Wiscasset owned by one of its suppliers. The factory produced a foam material and shipped it to Finland to make dressings. But to expand in North America, Molnlycke realized it made more sense to put production nearby.


Molnlycke’s signature product differs from the familiar gauze pad at the pharmacy. It’s a five-layer sandwich that includes foam and a perforated contact surface featuring a technology that minimizes sticking to the wound. Known as a bordered foam dressing for the sacrum – the triangular bone at the base of the spine – it’s also designed to help prevent pressure ulcers, or bed sores.

The dressings are made on a sterile, highly automated assembly line, controlled by workers clad in gowns and hairnets. They start at $17 an hour, plus health insurance, retirement and vacation benefits. Prospective workers need to pass a series of competency tests centered on problem solving and mechanical aptitude.

But finding production workers isn’t easy, Dignum said. The jobless rate in the Brunswick area is low, and it’s hard to attract young people, who think all factories are dirty and noisy.

Some help has come from Southern Maine Community College’s Midcoast campus, down the road on the business campus. The college has been pre-screening applicants, as well as providing some generic safety training.

In time, Molnlycke may want to form an apprenticeship program with the college, to fill the labor pool with nearby talent. It’s also working with some local high schools, to make students familiar with the company and hope they might want to work there.

“Once you find people with the basic competencies, you can train them,” Dignum said.


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