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Harvey Performance Co., in Gorham, is bursting at the seams, so when the company decided to expand last year, they wanted it done fast.
"We've been growing rapidly, and basically just outgrew our space," said Steve Vatcher, vice president of operations. The company, formerly Helical Solutions, has been in a 23,000-square-foot building in the Gorham Industrial Park for the past 15 years. "We had no space to expand."
The company sold its building at 29 Sanford Drive to Berzinis Realty LLC last September for $1.75 million, with an 18-month leaseback.
With the building sold, the clock was ticking. "We were looking at a 12-month timeline," Vatcher said.
Even in normal times, that's a quick turnaround for a 79,000-square-foot custom building, said Josh Benthien, CEO of Portland-based Northland Enterprises. Northland owns the 13-acre parcel, which it bought from Moody Co-Worker Owned Inc. last year. The land and building are being leased to Harvey.
"I thought it was a long shot to do a building like that as fast as they needed it," Benthien said.
Yet, despite a brief slowdown in April, the project, built by Landry/French Construction of Scarborough, will be ready for occupancy July 1 — right on schedule — a year after it broke ground.
"It's been amazing to see," Benthien said.
Harvey Tool, a Rowley, Mass., company, acquired Gorham's Helitcal Solutions in 2015, and the two are combined under the Harvey Performance umbrella. The company, which designs and manufactures carbide end mills for precision machining, made it a priority to stay in the area, said Vatcher.
"We have around 100 employees, highly skilled machinists," he said. The company wanted to make any move as free of disruption as possible for employees.
"The other piece is, Gorham is a great town to work with," he said. "They were an extremely helpful partner in this process."
The town role included a tax increment financing district that helped pay for infrastructure and other development costs. Northlands also got approval for expansion of up to 36,000 square feet on the site in addition to the 79,000-square-foot building.
The town was part of a "dream team" that Vatcher and Benthien said helped make the project stay on track, even with the COVID-19 curve ball this spring.
"At one point we thought we'd be delayed for a month," Benthien said. That was in April, when the realities of the pandemic were becoming clear. But Landry/French kept things on track.
"Basically what they've done since April 1 has been amazing," he said.
Vatcher agreed. "Kudos to Landry/French. They've done a terrific job."
The project was shut down for four days at the beginning of April for a thorough cleaning, and multiple safety precautions and protocol, including a washing station at the door, were implemented. Yet the schedule didn't get derailed.
Even before COVID-19, Landry/French was impressive. "There were no surprises, and even with a new building, there are always surprises," Benthien said.
The team of architects and engineers was from Cambridge, Mass.-based SMMA, which brought "an extremely sophisticated design and approach to the whole process," Benthien said.
Facility planning and management was overseen by Paul Couture, an outside consultant specializing in industrial manufacturing facilities. "Paul led Harvey in the early stages of the project and worked with us during development, and was a key resource for us," Benthien said. "We know what we don’t know, and Paul’s expertise and experience was crucial to the success of the project."
Shawn Frank, of Sebago Technics, was civil engineer and landscape designer. "He did an amazing job navigating the complex approvals and designed a functional site with abundant landscaping and plantings," Benthien said.
Vatcher said the fact that Northlands owns the property allows Harvey to focus on business.
"Our expertise is in manufacturing machine tools, not owning property," he said. "It's about sticking to what you're good at."
The building is the first on the 62-acre site on Narragansett Street that Shawn Moody's Coworker Owned Inc. bought in 2016. Northlands bought the 13 acres for the Harvey project from Moody last year.
Moody, a Gorham native and owner of Moody's Collision Centers, bought the land from Hannaford in 2016 for $1.2 million, and plans an innovation industrial park. Hannaford had owned the land for about a decade, and had installed water and sewer.
The spot had long been a horse racing track, first as the Gorham fairgrounds, then the Gorham Raceway, one of the dozens of harness-racing tracks that used to dot the Maine countryside, according to the Lost Trotting Parks of Maine Heritage Center website. The track, considered to be "one of the most beautiful in Maine," closed in 1967, the site says.
The Gorham bypass, which is Route 112, was built in 2008 to connect Route 25 and U.S. Route 202 and cut through the former racetrack site. The new access road trhough the parcel, off Route 202, is Raceway Drive, a nod to the site's history, Vatcher said.
The history also makes the site great for development. "It's a fantastic site," Vatcher said. Not only is lit large and flat, but there was no blasting needed. The new building is slightly behind where the old grandstand was.
The new building not only has more room, but also a demonstration area for customers and more research and development space. He said that employees will be added as the company grows.
Justin Lamontagne, of NAI The Dunham Group, told Mainebiz in December that he'd suggesting selling the current building right away to capitalize on the hot industrial market and to remove the headache of moving and selling a building at the same time.
At the time, a pandemic was not on anyone's radar. Vatcher told Mainebiz the project was "running a race against winter," but hoped to be done by the end of June.
Despite some "nervous moments" since then, a certificate of occupancy is expected at the end of the month. The move will take place in phases and the company won't fully shut down. "Our customers aren't going to take a month off for us to move," he said.
The company held a ground-breaking ceremony a year ago, but the plans for a ribbon-cutting now that the building is completed are up in the air because of the pandemic. The move should be completed by Labor Day, he said.