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Updated: December 11, 2023 Focus on Manufacturing

Auburn Manufacturing ramps up production and hiring

Photo / Tim Greenway Kathie Leonard, president and CEO of Mechanic Falls-based Auburn Manufacturing, says the company is looking to add space at its Auburn plant next summer.

Auburn Manufacturing Inc., a Mechanic Falls-based maker of heat-resistant high-performance textiles, is ramping up production — and hiring — amid strong demand from defense and industrial customers.

“We’ve never had a backlog like this, and it doesn’t seem to go down,” says Kathie Leonard, the company’s president and CEO. Leonard, who co-founded the company in 1979, was honored as a Mainebiz Business Leader of the Year in 2018.

The company, which has a second manufacturing plant in Auburn, currently has 60 employees and three temporary workers on the payroll — the highest-ever workforce total, according to Leonard.

Auburn Manufacturing makes materials that are used in the transportation sector, including auto, rail, air, marine and specialized vehicles from snowmobiles to race cars. The company also produces plain, coated, aluminized and fabricated textile products, including blankets and specialty gaskets, that meet strict military and industrial testing and certification requirements.

Amid growing demand from existing clients and a planned aerospace project, Auburn Manufacturing aims to expand operations at its Auburn plant next summer.

“We are still trying to figure out how much space we need for equipment,” Leonard says. “This isn’t just looms, but it’s a lot of other materials we have to put in there like liquids and water, so we need quite a bit more space,” somewhere between 7,500 and 10,000 additional square feet.

The company also expects to keep hiring and expects to be at 70 to 75 employees in the next year or two. Leonard said that while hiring was difficult earlier this year, the climate has improved. She also touted online training modules for incoming employees the company created in collaboration with the Maine Community College System.

“It’s a good introduction for people to learn what we do, and it’s also valuable for cross-training,” she notes.

National spotlight

Earlier this year, Leonard won a second unfair trade lawsuit against China. And this July, the company was in the national spotlight during a campaign stop at the Auburn Industrial Park by President Joe Biden.

“America used to lead the world in manufacturing and we’re doing it again,” the Democratic incumbent told the gathering.

Leonard called the visit historic, “reminding all Americans that Maine is on the manufacturing map and that domestic manufacturers like us will never stop working hard and fighting back against even the fiercest competition," as she told Mainebiz at the time.

“We look forward to even brighter days ahead for manufacturers across America,” she added.

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