BY JAMES MCCARTHY
SmartLam, a Montana-based company that is the first manufacturer of Cross-Laminated Timber in the United States, announced Thursday it plans to expand its operations to the East Coast by opening a new manufacturing facility in Maine.
Located in Columbia Falls, Mont., SmartLam is among the six companies the Maine Technology Institute announced Thursday would receive collectively $10.5 million through the Maine Technology Asset Fund 2.0 program. The program is funded by the $45 million R&D bond approved by voters last June.
MTI awarded SmartLam $3 million toward a $23.5 million project to build a CLT manufacturing facility in Maine that is expected to create 100 direct jobs and 200 indirect jobs.
Site selection for the facility is “in process and will be completed within the next two months,” SmartLam reported in a news release.
The company, whose president and general manager Casey Malmquist was a keynote speaker at the 2016 annual meeting of the Maine Forest Products Council, is the second CLT manufacturer to announce plans for Maine this week.
On Tuesday, LignaCLT Maine LLC announced it plans to build a 300,000-square-foot manufacturing plant on 35 acres of the 1,400-acre site now owned by Our Katahdin LLC. The North Carolina-based company plans to manufacture Glulam, a wood product for columns and beams that is also made with layers of dimensioned lumber bonded with moisture-resistant adhesives, at the Millinocket site.
Here’s what’s driving SmarLam’s expansion
SmartLam President and General Manager Casey Malmquist said the Montana company, which was founded in 2012 and three years ago had been producing more than 12 million board feet per year of CLT products at its Columbia Falls factory, needs additional manufacturing capacity to keep pace with the rapidly growing market for the new engineered wood products such as glue-laminated and cross-laminated timber that are increasingly being used to builder ever-taller buildings.
“We are seeing considerable demand for CLT on the East Coast as architects, builders and developers seek durable, sustainable building materials,” Malmquist said. “Our new Maine facility will provide us with the perfect vantage point to supply customers with our premium CLT products while allowing us to lower the environmental impact and costs associated with shipping.”
Malmquist said the decision to expand to the East Coast comes just four months after the company announced its plans to open another facility in Columbia Falls that will serve as its new headquarters.
In his presentation at the Maine Forest Products Council’s 2016 annual meeting, Malmquist said the company was then considering a 120,000-square-foot expansion that would be capable of manufacturing 48 million board feet per year to keep pace with the growing demand for its products.
CLT is an engineered wood building material and sustainable alternative to traditional building materials like steel, concrete and masonry. The service life of a CLT building can last as long as buildings constructed from other materials like concrete or steel and because of its lighter weight can lead to much faster construction of buildings.
“Our forest products industry is one of Maine’s best assets with a long history of embracing innovative technologies to spur our economy,” said Gov. Paul LePage. “SmartLam’s investment in Maine represents the next evolution in that history. There is no better place for the country’s first and largest manufacturer of CLT to continue their growth than here in Maine.”