Ducktrap River of Maine acquires former Little River Apparel facility

50,000-square-foot building to allow expansion of seafood business
By Ethan Andrews | Jul 13, 2017
Photo by: Ethan Andrews The former Little River Apparel garment factory, left, has sat vacant a stone's throw from Ducktrap River of Maine, visible in the background. The seafood products company acquired the building July 11.

Belfast — Ducktrap River of Maine has acquired the former Little River Apparel garment factory that has been vacant for more than a year.

The smoked salmon and seafood products business closed July 11 on the Business Park property with its 50,0000-square-foot manufacturing facility, company officials confirmed.

Ducktrap River of Maine processes smoked salmon, trout, mackerel and mussels. The company is owned by Marine Harvest, a multinational seafood company based in Norway. The Ducktrap River facility in Belfast has undergone several expansions in recent years and now employs 130 people.

Plant Manager Dustin Batley said the newly acquired building, located next door, will allow the company to expand its operations beyond the walls of its current 66,000-square-foot business park facility and eventually double production.

The move will probably add some jobs, Bately said, but it won't be a windfall for the blue collar job market as Ducktrap faces the question of "whether we replicate or innovate."

"Labor's a struggle," he said. "There's not that many people available anymore."

Rather than adding a proportionate number of workers, he said, the company will probably automate some processes and add a smaller number of workers.

Under the current plan, Bately said, renovations would start in August and the new facility would begin processing Ducktrap products in February 2018.

The exterior of former sewing factory would remain largely the same, Bately said. The interior would be transformed using the same "building within a building" style as the current facility, including new flooring, drainage system and new interior walls for coolers and food processing areas.

Bately said the expansion will give the company a chance to improve its workflow and safety features.

Little River Apparel, before it closed in early 2016, was the business arm of Group Home Foundation, a nonprofit for people with intellectual disabilities that folded soon after. The business employed as many as 250 people at one time, making chemical resistant garments for the U.S. Department of Defense under a provision that grants contracts to employers with a large proportion of workers with disabilities.

Since 2016, when Group Home Foundation dissolved, a skeleton crew of former board members has worked with an attorney to sort out the defunct organization's debts, which significantly surpassed its assets.

Attorney Bruce Hochman, who represents Group Home Foundation's assets, described the sale as a positive development.

"It worked out well for the buyer and for Group Home, and a number of creditors got paid, so I think I it was a win for everybody," he said.

Neither Hochman nor Bately would disclose the sale price of the property, saying they were not at liberty to do so.

Equipment left behind when Little River Apparel closed, including specialized sewing machines and fabric cutters, is under contract for sale to Origin, a martial arts apparel company based in Industry, Hochman said.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article gave the incorrect size for the former Little River Apparel building.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.