Poland Spring added more than $200 million to the state economy and employed 860 workers in Maine in 2016, according to an economic impact report released by the company Tuesday.

That makes Poland Spring the fifth-largest manufacturer in Maine and an important source of employment and economic growth in rural parts of Maine, where natural resource industries such as pulp and paper manufacturing are declining, said Charles Lawton, an economist who wrote the report for Poland Spring. Lawton also writes a column for the Portland Press Herald.

“To me the most significant surprise was the number of people employed,” Lawton said. The $201.6 million generated by the company included payroll, payments to vendors, sales and local and state taxes. Poland Spring added 200 jobs from 2005 to 2017, according to the company.

The company’s overall economic effect, including employee spending, is closer to $391 million, Lawton estimated.

“I would never say it was the same as the thousands and thousands of jobs associated with paper,” but there is “a widening shadow of impact from Poland Spring that helps support local communities,” Lawton said. “It is one of the few that is expanding in rural Maine.”

Poland Spring expects to add 40 to 80 jobs at its next bottling plant.

The bottled water company, a subsidiary of the Swiss food and beverage giant Nestle S.A., commissioned the report in advance of building a new bottling plant to keep up with heavy demand.

The location of the plant, either in Oxford County or Penobscot County, is expected to be announced by early 2018, according to community relations manager Heather Printup. The facility is expected to cost $50 million and create 40 to 80 new jobs, she said. This is the first time the company has enumerated its economic impact in a report like this, she said.

“It is a really exciting time for us – we are making a major growth announcement,” Printup said. “It really prompted us to take a comprehensive look at our contributions in the state.”

On average, Poland Spring workers make about $53,700 in annual wages and benefits, almost $12,000 more than the state average, according to Lawton’s report.

Poland Spring has bottling plants in Hollis, Poland and Kingfield and sources its water from Fryeburg, Poland, Hollis, Dallas Plantation, Kingfield, Pierce Pond Township and Denmark. The company extracted more than 900 million gallons in 2016 and has signed long-term deals with water districts in Rumford and Lincoln to source water from those towns. It is prepared to invest $150 million in Maine over the next five years, according to the report.

The company has courted controversy as it expanded in Maine in the past 15 years. Environmental groups have argued the company makes huge profits while endangering vital public resources, although the company has always rejected allegations it threatens local aquifers. Last year the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of Poland Spring in a lawsuit brought by a Fryeburg resident and a national environmental group over a 25-year extraction agreement with Fryeburg Water Co.

Poland Spring also has fought off multiple lawsuits accusing it of mislabeling its “spring” water because it gets much of its product from freshwater wells.

“We do attract some controversy, but at the end of the day we are truly invested in Maine,” Printup said.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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