Kingfield celebrates bottling plant start

By Betty Jespersen,  December 15, 2006  Morning SentinelKINGFIELD — Kingfield’s first selectman John Dill beamed as he looked out at a standing-room-only crowd in Webster Hall on Thursday celebrating the start of construction of the Poland Spring water bottling plant.

“What a great day,” he said. “Merry Christmas to the town of Kingfield.”

At least 60 new jobs are expected when the plant opens in 2008. Eventually, as many as 100 jobs will be created as part of a project that represents an investment of more than $60 million for Poland Spring.

“This has been an extremely challenging process,” said Kim Jeffery, chief executive officer for Poland Spring’s parent company, Nestle Waters North America and one of the many local and state dignitaries on hand for the luncheon celebration.

“It has taken a couple of years but that is how trust is built,” he said. “When you have a project that takes an extended period of time, where expectations are met and people do what they say they will do, then you have a very strong foundation.”

Both Jeffery and the company’s natural resource manager Tom Brennan, who has represented Poland Spring in the hundreds of hours of meetings over the past two years, commended the hard work of Kingfield’s Water Board, selectmen and Planning Board.

“The boards were very fair, very professional and really did their homework,” Jeffrey said. “We need the kind of environmental oversight you have here because we need to protect the (water) source and the recharge area to make this work.”

Site work has already begun for the 200,000-square foot facility that will be located on 350 acres on Route 27. According to Jeffery, it will be the first manufacturing plant in North America to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. “Green” energy-efficient buildings are designed to significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impact on the environment and the people who work there.

Poland Spring first considered Kingfield four years ago when Alison Hagerstrom, the executive director of the Greater Franklin Development Corporation, began aggressively courting the company to get them to consider Kingfield. She said the company will bring jobs with top wages, benefits and the potential for career development.

“The success of this project has been a huge group effort and the leadership (in Kingfield) has been outstanding,” she said. “We are ecstatic to have Poland Spring expand here. It is exactly what we wanted.”

This is the second major economic development announcement this week that Greater Franklin has been involved with. On Tuesday, NotifyMD, a high-tech, physician messaging service announced it was opening a center in Farmington with up to 120 jobs.

During the lengthy review process, among the concerns some residents had of the Poland Spring project related to truck traffic and the impact the water extraction would have on town’s aquifer.

In October, the Planning Board approved a permit that allows up to 200 million gallons a year to be extracted, roughly equivalent to one percent of the total amount of the aquifer. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection also approved the project earlier this month.

The town’s permit limits Poland Spring to no more than 100 trucks traveling round-trip a day through the center of town.

After the celebration, Bobby Brown, the director of the Stanley Museum in Kingfield and incoming president of the Tri-Valley United Way, said he liked Jeffrey’s comments about Poland Spring’s commitment to give back to the community.

He anticipates the company will be supportive of educational projects in Administrative District 58 schools and of the community’s programs and needs.

“They have told us when they come to a community, they bring the commitment of being a good neighbor,” Brown said. “They said they want to help where they can have the most impact. There is a sense of excitement here over the potential collaborative efforts.”

The Poland Spring Water Company employs 700 people in Maine at plants in Poland Spring and Hollis.