August 18, 2017

Lewiston expansion boosts L.L.Bean's hiring plans

L.L.Bean, which celebrated the grand opening of its new manufacturing plant in Lewiston on Thursday, plans to add 100 manufacturing jobs next year, including 40 to 50 in Lewiston.

L.L.Bean is kicking its Bean boot production into a higher gear after opening a second plant in Lewiston.

The Freeport-based maker of clothing and outdoor gear plans to add 100 manufacturing jobs next year, including 40 to 50 in Lewiston, said Donna Lamberth, the company's director of manufacturing.

"So far we've been pretty successful in our hiring," she told Mainebiz. "Not only have we found the number of people that we need, but also the quality."

The company currently employs 70 people at the new Lewiston facility, which started operations in April but had its grand opening Thursday morning in an event attended by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, Maine. Collins tweeted that the new factory "will create good jobs for Mainers and grow our economy."

Lamberth said having the additional production capacity in Lewiston — on top of its factory in Brunswick — puts the company "on our way" towards making 1 million pairs of Bean boots in 2018. That compares to 600,000 in 2016 and 750,000 expected in 2017.

"The whole purpose of expanding into this larger facility is to allow us to significantly increase the volume of Bean boots," she said. "We don't want customers to be waiting for back-ordered products." The expansion into the new space included investing $1 million for a third injection molding machine to make the rubber boot bottoms.

Lamberth added that the company was taken by surprise by a backlog two years ago and has since been increasing production and finding that "the more we make the more we sell."

She also said the response to its "small-batch" Bean boots, launched this year with batches ranging from a few thousand to 5,000 pairs, has been "fantastic" so far.

"The key is that it's a limited-edition product," she explained. "Once we sell it it's gone." She added that fall and winter are the busiest times for Bean boot sales, and noted that the new Lewiston factory also makes dog beds, outdoor furniture cushions and boat and tote bags.

L.L.Bean has had a presence in Lewiston for more than a decade and employs 400 people today at its call center there.

"Lewiston's a great place for L.L.Bean," Lamberth said.

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