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October 2, 2017

After long search, plastics firm finds home in Biddeford with lots of room for expansion

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Paul Tyson, owner and general manager of Thermoformed Plastics of New England, center, talks to Robert Stoddard, the operations manager, near a machine that makes trays for a medical device company in their production area in Biddeford. Tyson purchased the former York County Biscuit Co. plant at 362 Hill St. for $1.18 million in a deal that closed Aug. 30.

BIDDEFORD — The purchase of a 27,684-square-foot industrial building at 362 Hill St. in Biddeford was a long time coming.

But buyer Paul Tyson, owner of Thermoformed Plastics of New England, was finally able to complete the deal. Tyson purchased the plant for $1.18 million from York County Biscuit Company Inc., in a deal that closed Aug. 30. Greg Hastings from NAI The Dunham Group represented the seller and introduced Tyson to the property.

"The industrial market in Biddeford is extremely limited when it comes to properties for sale," Hastings said. "There is very little available inventory there."

The building was constructed in 1987 for the York County Biscuit Co., which distributed cookies and crackers for Keebler Foods Co.

Tyson is originally from Chicago. He joined the U.S. Air Force and was sent to Loring Air Force Base in northern Maine.

"I fell in love with Maine and have been here ever since," he said.

He spent many years in the advertising business, but always wanted to start a manufacturing company because he loves making things. The idea of going into the plastic business came up in discussion with a friend who was negotiating the purchase of some used molding equipment and was going to try to launch a company. The friend dropped out, but Tyson stuck with it and started his company.

He soon had six employees, leasing space at the old Riverdam Mill and producing primarily clamshell packaging and trays.

Then he began looking for space to buy. That's when Hastings showed him 362 Hill St.

Courtesy / NAI The Dunham Group
Courtesy / NAI The Dunham Group
Thermoformed Plastics of New England purchased 362 Hill St. in Biddeford, with a 27,684-square-foot industrial building, for $1.18 million.

"We wanted to buy this building at the time, but the owner wouldn't sell," said Tyson. "They only wanted to lease. But because we're a manufacturing company, we have to install a lot of power and unique equipment. I spent a fortune at the mill for electrical upgrades, and all that money was left behind. I wasn't going to do that again with a building I didn't own."

So instead, he bought another building just down the road, at 412 Hill St., which he occupied for seven years.

362 Hill St., in the meantime, was leased to another tenant. But it became available again three years ago — and this time, Tyson was able to lease it with an option to purchase the property during the lease term. He moved the company to 362 Hill St. and invested close to $250,000 on electrical upgrades, high-efficiency LED lighting, installation of centralized air and vacuum systems, and polishing and cleaning the floor.

At the same time, he was looking for a tenant for 412 Hill St., so that he could go through with the purchase of 362 Hill St. Then in March of this year he got an offer to buy 412 Hill St. and decided to sell.

Both moves, since 2003, were necessary because the company was growing, he said. Today, the core of production is medical packaging and other materials handling systems to move parts around the world. In addition to the medical trade, industries served include automotive, cosmetics, electronics, food, marine, consumer and merchandising. Clients are primarily based outside of Maine.

"We make millions of parts every quarter," he said.

Courtesy / NAI The Dunham Group
Courtesy / NAI The Dunham Group
Continued growth of Thermoformed Plastics of New England has meant two moves in Biddeford. With its purchase and relocation to 362 Hill St., shown in this aerial view, the company now has plenty of room for expansion.

Currently employing 14, he has plans for further expansion.

"Ultimately, we want to establish a medical clean room," he said. "And we've got space here to grow, so we're putting in additional equipment, which we'll bring on-line next year."

Throughout the company's history, Tyson's business model has aimed to fill a just-in-time niche for clients that don't want to sit on a lot of inventory.

"We want to be customer-centric in how we operate," he said. "That's propelled our growth." Larger suppliers of packaging, he said, require clients to take bulk shipments. That's a problem for most clients who don't have enough space to store their packaging. With Tyson, clients can place a blanket order, and he fills it as needed, even keeping track of clients' inventory.

"So we don't say, 'You have to take a million packages,'" he said. "Instead we say, 'You commit to it, and we'll get it to you just in time.'"

The benefits of being in Biddeford are many, he said.

"I'm really impressed with what this little town has done," he said. "I have a new sales manager and I was driving with him around the area to orient him, and he said, 'This has got a really vibrant downtown.' Previously, there was no place to eat downtown. Now there are half a dozen options. I love the renaissance that's occurring here and the work the city is doing."

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