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July 30, 2018

Casco Systems sells current space, gets ready for its big move this fall

Courtesy / Casco Systems
Courtesy / Casco Systems
Casco Systems' new 20,300-square-foot headquarters at 197 Gray Road in Cumberland is expected to be ready for move-in by late September. The company recently sold its current headquarters at 160 Longwoods Road in Cumberland to Richard Hallett for $400,000.

Casco Systems' sale of its current headquarters at 160 Longwoods Road in Cumberland signals the system engineering firm's ongoing preparations to move to new and larger headquarters at 197 Gray Road, also in Cumberland.

Casco Holdings LLC sold its property, which includes a 4,400-square-foot office building, to Richard Hallett for $400,000. Mark Malone of Malone Commercial Brokers and Emilie Levecque of Townsend Real Estate brokered the transaction, which closed June 29.

Malone, who represented the seller, said he's known Casco Systems President Kevin Mahoney for about eight years. He's watched the company grow and helped Mahoney find the Longwoods Road place in 2011. At that time, the property had been on the market for about two years before Mahoney purchased it.

This time around, once Mahoney decided to sell the Longwoods Road property, it sold relatively quickly.

"It was under contract in 30 days," said Malone.

Quick turn-around

Courtesy / Malone Commercial Brokers
Courtesy / Malone Commercial Brokers
Casco Systems sold its current headquarters at 160 Longwoods Road in Cumberland for $400,000.

The much-quicker sale speaks to a tight market for industrial space and also to a perception of the building, Malone said.

"When it sold to Kevin, the perception at that time was that Cumberland was a long way out there" from the general commerce center of Greater Portland, he said. "This time around, we never got that from people. It was in the mix of the Greater Portland market. It's mentally become closer to Portland."

The property received a great deal of interest, he said.

"I had more showings in that 30 days than I had in the two years the previous time," he said. The asking price was $419,000, but Mahoney agreed to come down and has a leaseback on the building until his new headquarters is ready.

"The buyer didn't need immediate access to the property, which provided some flexibility," Malone said.

Casco Systems is an engineering and system integration firm headquartered in Cumberland, with additional offices in Waterville as well as Rochester, N.Y. It performs work for electric utility and power generation clients throughout North America, with a special focus on the Northeast.

Mahoney said his company's new headquarters will be a 20,300-square-foot building on one level. Once finished, the building address will be One Faraday Drive, Cumberland, and will adjoin a commercial and residential area that's also under development.

Overbuilt for the future

The overall project is being developed in three phases by Green SIP Construction Inc. The Casco building is Phase 1, to be followed by Phase II residential condominiums and a Phase III commercial building.

James Schmidt of Capital Structures is the general contractor and DeRice Consulting LLC is construction manager. Grondin Corp. performed the site work and Dan Beaulieu of DW Contracting LLC handled the foundation and framing. Gorham Savings Bank financed the project. The interior was designed by Bowerbird Design Cooperative of Saco in collaboration with Casco Systems. The project broke ground last November.

The new $3.4 million headquarters reflects the company's growth, said Mahoney, who was speaking by phone from the Longwoods Road space.

"To a great extent, we're out of space here, both in terms of parking lot and interior space," he said. "We haven't grown enough that we need all of the new room, but we overbuilt for the future."

Casco Systems will take about 16,000 square feet of the new space initially. Mahoney plans to lease the rest for now and is in negotiations with potential tenants.

In April, after most of the new building's walls were up, high winds blew off a portion of the roof, which took down parts of the walls. The event delayed progress by about a month, but the developer has since made up some of that time. Mahoney said he expects to make the move in early October.

The building includes larger laboratory space for research and development of advanced automation, control and protection systems for the electric power industry, a server room, a training room, offices, conference rooms, lounge and fitness center. The larger shop space will make it possible to stage control systems for testing prior to deployment to the field.

The company employs 37 full-time engineers, automation specialists, project managers and business professionals. The majority are in Cumberland and Mahoney expects to hire more in the near future. Currently, he said, the company could use three to five new electrical engineers, in particular those with experience in the power industry.

The new space will easily have room for 60 people, Mahoney said.

Bolstering the hiring pool

"We already hired five new [engineering] graduates this past year, in anticipation of the new building," he said. "We're getting them started. We've doubled and tripled up offices in our current space. We have a growing business and we're looking especially for experienced candidates."

In this specialized field, the rate of growth is restricted by how quickly the company can find suitable candidates, he said.

"We're opportunistic. We're looking for the right people and the right fit," he said.

How difficult is it to find engineers?

"Extremely," he said. "It's the single biggest impediment to growth, finding strong STEM candidates, primarily in computer science and engineering."

To bolster the hiring pool, he said, Casco Systems has developed a partnership with the Electrical Engineering Technology Department at the University of Maine in Orono. For example, Mahoney is on the department's industrial advisory committee, and helps guide the department on the industry's needs, so programs can be tailored accordingly.

"We've hired many of their graduates in the last few years," he said. "We taught a class for a semester to help them stand up a program that was very specific to the utility industry. That's been great because it gives a lot of students exposure to the industry before they even graduate, which makes them very strong candidates in the power system world."

The new headquarters itself was designed to be a recruitment tool.

"We see this new building as a perk," he said. "We'll have a wellness room, a lounge area, an outdoor recreation area — a much nicer facility that's a lot more fun and a lot more ergonomic. That's part of the strategy."

As one of the "Best Places to Work in Maine" the last two years, the new building "will help Casco live up to that honor," Mahoney told Mainebiz last November.

Good investment

Before deciding on new construction, Mahoney first considered adding onto the Longwoods Road space.

"It's a nice location — quiet, rural and a beautiful setting. We've had good run here," he said.

But the lot is restricted by wetlands. With Malone's help, they looked for other options for several months before coming across the Gray Road development, which had already received permitting for another company that had pulled out.

"It was right here in Cumberland and it allowed us to stay within 10 to 12 minutes of our current location, which was good for our staff," Mahoney said. "The Route 1 area of Cumberland and Falmouth is building out pretty quickly. And the town has targeted Route 100 as a growth area. So we saw this as pretty good real estate investment. We think our property is going to be a spark along that corridor to grow improvements there. So I think the long-term value of the building will increase."

Consultants in high demand

Mahoney started the company in 2001.

What's driving its growth?

"We have many very long relationships with extremely loyal clients," Mahoney said. "So a lot of growth has been organic. They've asked us to do more and we've expanded our scope of services. Outside consultants are also in high demand in the power industry. A lot of power facilities have cut back on their engineering staff and now outsource engineering services. So there's growing demand in general for engineering services in the power generation and transmission field."

That growth is expected to continue, Mahoney said, as the utility industry evolves to integrate renewable power systems and develop smart grids — an electricity supply network that uses digital communications technology to detect and react to local changes in usage.

"Our tagline is, 'Engineering tomorrow's smart grid, today,'" Mahoney noted. "Casco is on the forefront of technology and its application in power delivery and power generation markets."

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