Sen. Susan Collins speaks with reporters at STARC Systems in Brunswick on Wednesday. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — Sen. Susan Collins visited Brunswick Landing-based STARC Systems on Wednesday to tour the facility and speak to employees about their negative-pressure wall systems, which she said have potential far beyond the construction containment purposes for which they were designed.

The company typically manufactures “temporary modular wall containment systems” for hospital renovations, keeping construction dust, debris and pathogens sealed off from immunocompromised patients using negative pressure.

In March, officials more than doubled production, but with a new use for the product — to create instant isolation rooms and quarantine sections of a hospital.

The units protect health care workers and their patients in situations where hospitals or makeshift medical facilities may be overwhelmed, Brian Hamilton, director of health care and life sciences at Consigli Construction, said at the time. The telescoping units can be configured to fit different spaces and can easily be sterilized and reused.

Collins said Wednesday that she authored an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act requiring the Defense Health Agency study the military requirements for commercial off-the-shelf negative air pressure room containment systems like the ones designed by STARC after seeing the overwhelming demand from hospitals and federal agencies during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This amendment would allow the Department of Defense to have some of these systems on hand in the event of future pandemics, in the face of biological weapons or other emergencies, she said. It would give the United States freedom from being dependent on other countries like China or India for personal protective equipment, she argued.

Their work highlights the importance of U.S.-based manufacturing, she told employees. 

 It would “make all of us so proud to have that stockpile include your products,” she said. 

Collins called STARC, which started with two people in a garage and grew to over 70 employees in a large manufacturing facility,  a “shining example of a Maine success story.” 

It is, she said, exactly the kind of company she and others envisioned when they began work on redeveloping the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. 

Collins is running against Freeport’s Sara Gideon for re-election this year, and said her seniority made the difference in helping companies like STARC and bringing the Defense Authorization Act forward. 

But there’s more work to be done to keep bringing businesses in, she said, like favorable tax policies. 

“We couldn’t have the highest corporate tax rate in the world … and expect that businesses are going to locate here and expand here,” she said. 

This story has been updated to correct Gideon’s Freeport residency. 


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