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September 7, 2023

Thomaston cement plant will be 'idled,' lay off 65 workers

A century-old cement manufacturer in Thomaston, Dragon Products Co., will begin shutting down operations in December and expects to lay off nearly its entire workforce.

The company, owned by South Carolina-based Giant Cement Holding Inc., will start "idling the production operations" in the Knox County town of 2,700 because of increased costs, according to a news release.

"Despite our best efforts to adapt and navigate through these challenging circumstances, we have determined that these actions are necessary for the long-term sustainability of our business," said Roberto Polit, Giant Cement vice president of operations.

Polit told Mainebiz the shutdown will extend into the first half of 2024 but that Dragon will continue filling customer orders from Thomaston into 2025.

A Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification filed Wednesday with the state indicated that 65 workers would lose their jobs. Dragon currently employs 72 people, according to Polit. Phased employee separations will start in December and conclude by the beginning of 2025.

"We extend our sincere gratitude to all employees who have contributed significantly to our plant in Thomaston," Polit said. "Their hard work, dedication, and commitment have been invaluable to our operations. We are also grateful for the support and understanding shown by the local community throughout the years."

Giant Cement is not saying what the future may hold for the plant and an adjacent limestone quarry on 900 acres of land.

"We will comply with all the pertinent laws and regulations throughout this transition, and will evaluate further the sales of lands and assets," Polit said.

The Dragon plant is the only cement manufacturing facility in New England, and also something of a local landmark, with buildings and chutes visible from a distance. The property has an assessed value of $63.4 million, according to town records from 2022.

In May, the U.S. Mine Safety Health Administration announced that it had issued 33 citations against Dragon for safety violations at the facility.

Dragon Cement traces its roots to 1878, when a plant opened in Thomaston but soon failed, according to the company's website. In the early 1900s, Alfred Black attempted to revive the business, known as the New England Cement Co. It sold to a Pennsylvania company in 1926, was renamed Dragon Cement in 1951, and changed hands several more times before being acquired by Giant in 2006.

In addition to the Thomaston plant, Dragon Cement has an office in South Portland.

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