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Updated: October 30, 2020

Construction wrapping up on $74M phase 2 of JAX Ellsworth plant

PHOTO / LAURIE SCHREIBER The Jackson Laboratory's mouse production facility in Ellsworth undergoing additional construction to expand its mouse rooms and employee amenities.

Phase 2 construction at the Jackson Laboratory’s Charles E. Hewett Center in Ellsworth is due to be completed this week..

The lab has invested $74 million in the second phase. That’s on top of about $85 million spent to build the first stage of the center, which opened in 2018.

Phase 1 consisted of conversion of a former Lowe’s building at 21 Kingsland Crossing into a 134,900-square-foot mouse production facility, called a vivarium, which provides mice for some 25,000 laboratories around the world. 

The Ellsworth site is 20 miles from Jackson Lab's headquarters in Bar Harbor. 

Innovations at the new center included individually ventilated caging with fail-safe features for power outages, next-generation HEPA-filtered workstations with individual airlocks for the automated introduction of sterile caging and supplies, and industry-leading personnel entry procedures and clean-room garb.

The Hewett center went into production with the start of its first colonies in December 2018, and its first shipments were made in 2019. 

Animal equipment

Phase 2, within the same building, outfits the second of four sections of the facility with expanded mouse production space, offices, a cafeteria and a fitness center, Leah Graham, the lab’s manager of governmental affairs focusing on Maine relationships, told the Ellsworth City Council at its Oct. 19 meeting.

Courtesy / Jackson Laboratory
A cafeteria, seen here nearly completed, offices and a fitness center are part of the phase 2 expansion at Jackson Lab’s Ellsworth facility.

Phase 2 was originally scheduled to be completed by April. But construction was suspended in March due to the pandemic, Graham said. 

Contractors have since returned and are following safety and health protocols, including mandatory COVID-19 screening, she added. 

Phase 3

Design for a third phase is expected to start in early 2021 and will include further animal production expansion within the existing building footprint. Completion is expected by the end of 2022, depending on demand, financing and economic conditions, Graham told Mainebiz. Any additional construction at the Hewett Center after that would be based on demand and economic condition.

In all, the total expected investment in the center will be between $230 million and $240 million.

More jobs

In 2019, 73 employees were hired at the JAX Ellsworth facility. The facility has continued hiring and now numbers just over 90 employees, Graham said.

Just over 200 employees were hired at the Bar Harbor campus, which has a total staff of over 1,500 in Bar Harbor and is Downeast Maine's largest employer.

In the next five to 10 years, the Ellsworth facility is expected to create 350 full-time, high-quality jobs. 

Courtesy / Jackson Laboratory
Seen here is the distribution of the Hancock County portion of Jackson Lab’s 1,557 Maine employees. Most live on Mount Desert Island and in Ellsworth.

The Ellsworth vivarium was designed to significantly expand production capacity and help address the high demand for JAX mice.  Annually, scientists in nearly 25,000 laboratories in dozens of countries use the mice to conduct research, identify treatments and seek cures for human diseases.  

Economic impact

According to Graham’s report on the lab's economic impact in Maine during 2019: 

• JAX contributed $732.5 million to the Maine economy

• The lab contributed $172.5 million in indirect vendor and consumer spending and created 1,097 jobs 

• It paid $136.6 million for Maine salaries and benefits 

• It made $75 million in capital expenditures/reinvestments and created 581 indirect jobs $

• JAX employees generated $29.7 million in Maine fees and taxes 

• $79 million in National Institutes of Health grant funding was awarded in FY19

• JAX employees 1,736 full- and part-time employees in Maine and is the state’s 15th largest employer.

An independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution and National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center based in Bar Harbor, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn., Jackson Lab employs 2,100 overall.

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