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Updated: November 9, 2023

How Maine Plywood salvaged industrial-sized boilers from B&M Baked Beans site

Courtesy / Charlie Martin An industrial-sized boiler from the B&M Baked Bean plant being delivered to Maine Plywood in Bingham.

Charlie Martin has been working to set up the Maine Plywood USA factory in Bingham for a couple of years now.

Every now and then he checks in with Mainebiz to share the latest progress.

The plan is to restart a plywood factory in Bingham, Somerset County, that's been dormant for 14 years. 

Martin, who is in the flooring business in Chicago, said that once it's up and running the plant would support 110 jobs and provide a key source of plywood in the Northeast. Let's underscore that this would be Maine-built plywood. Most of the plywood that's used in construction sites in the Northeast comes from the Pacific Northwest or Asia. 

Martin said all the raw materials could be sourced in Maine. The plant would be hiring workers from the surrounding area. 

Martin, who has already sunk more than $1 million of his own money into the project, has gotten economic development grants and meetings with potential investors. But he's still seeking capital to finish the fit-out and get operations up and running.

Yankee resourcefulness

In the meantime, the Chicagoan has shown a Yankee's resourcefulness in finding equipment.

He already salvaged a great deal of plywood-making equipment from a Canadian manufacturer. The deal was only part of it. Martin had to arrange for the plywood press and plates weighing some 32,000 pounds to be trucked to the Bingham site. The equipment came in 50 truckloads. Martin needed nine tractor trailers just for the dust collection system.

Martin plans to power Maine Plywood with a biomass system that would produce enough electricity to run the factory, which would be a nice tie-in with the forest products industry in Maine. 

Jim Neuger
Demolition at the former B&M Baked Bean factory started in June, when this photo was taken.

B&M Baked Bean boilers

More recently, Martin was in the market for giant boilers for the factory and had been in conversations with a Portland dealer, Port City Mechanical. 

"We needed boilers with 300 PSI — these are big, industrial-grade boilers," Martin told Mainebiz. "I've been shopping for them for two years."

The boilers will be used to dry out veneer.

Port City Mechanical, which is owned by Chuck Greenlaw, had the boilers Maine Plywood would need. But, for a thrifty operation, the price tag of roughly $500,000 apiece would have been an attractive sale for Port City — potentially $1 million — but a stretch for a startup factory, Martin said. 

Instead, it was Greenlaw at Port City Mechanical who called Martin and told him about the boilers that were being scraped at the old B&M Baked Bean plant, which is being converted to the headquarters of the Roux Institute at Northeastern University.

The nonprofit Initiative for Digital Engineering and Life Sciences (IDEALS) is developing the campus on behalf of Northeastern University, and arranged for the productive reuse of the boilers.

Demolition at the site started last summer.

"[Greenlaw] called me and said, 'Hey, Charlie, they're going to scrap these boilers. Do you want them?'" Martin recalled. "This guy gave up the sale" so he could get a far more economical solution. 

Martin was able to buy the boilers for the value of the scrap. 

Greenlaw, reached by phone at Port City Mechanical, told Mainebiz he recognized that with Martin setting up the factory, money was going to be a factor.

"I was happy to help him out," Greenlaw said. "I knew it would be a big nut for him."

“[Greenlaw] connected us with IDEALS and gave up the profit on the two new boilers to help us out," Martin said. "I am eternally grateful to IDEALS for facilitating the exchange and to Greenlaw for putting us together."

Moving a 30,000-pound boiler

Now came the tricky part.

Salvaging the boilers took a coordinated effort from multiple companies. Consigli Construction, the general contractor on-site, with a subcontractor, Select Demo Services, completed the cutting necessary to remove the boilers from the building where they were located.

Martin then had to figure out a way to haul the industrial-grade boilers out of the B&M plant and onto trucks.

The first crane he ordered was too small for the job. Cianbro Corp., which was already contracted to install the boilers at the Bingham factory site, stepped in to offer a 350-ton crane at the B&M-IDEALS site — and that did the trick.

"We needed a crane that could lift 90,000 pounds," Martin said. 

For that part of the move, Martin hired two large “low-boy” style trailers, which transported the boilers on their final journey to Bingham, where they could later be installed by Cianbro.

Meanwhile, even for this Martin was calculating the cost in his head.

"It's $5,000 per truckload," he said wearily.

Miraculously, it all came together and the boilers were safely transported to the Bingham plant. Which gets Maine Plywood one step closer to a future opening.

We'll keep you updated on Martin's venture and the progress of the Maine Plywood venture.

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