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Updated: April 29, 2024

York County factory will close, ending 48 jobs and decades-long history

exterior of entrance to one-story sandstone-colored industrial building Photo / William Hall The Parker Hannifin manufacturing plant in Kittery will close permanently by Nov. 30. The factory has been in business under various owners since 1967.

A Kittery plant that makes industrial compressed-air equipment will permanently close this fall, putting all of the factory's 48 employees out of work.

Parker Hannifin, the Cleveland company that has owned and run the facility since 2000, will move its operations to other North American sites and then shutter Kittery's by Nov. 30, spokesman Aidan Gormley told Mainebiz.

The closure will start in May and proceed in phases over the coming months, he said by email on Friday. Workers will receive severance pay, continued benefits and outplacement help and may be considered for other jobs with the company.

It's not clear which Parker facilities will pick up the work now done in Kittery, or where its workers might go. The company currently has 62,000 employees and over 330 manufacturing plants worldwide, plus sales and administrative offices, according to its most recent annual report.

In Maine, the company's only other presence is at a chain of authorized distributors that sell Parker products in Bangor, Lewiston and South Portland.

Shuttering the Maine factory "in no way reflects the performance of our dedicated team members at the facility," Gormley said. "This was not an easy decision but is necessary to maintain our competitiveness in a challenging market environment." He declined to offer more details. 

Details are also unavailable about the layoff phases, he said, including their timing and the workers each will affect. The layoff was confirmed by a notice filed last week with the Maine Department of Labor.

Parker Hannifin Corp. (NYSE: PH) is scheduled on Thursday to announce earnings for the third quarter of its 2024 fiscal year.

For the second quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2023, Parker reported sales of $4.8 billion, a year-over-year increase of 3%. Net income was $681.9 million, up from $395.2 million in the prior year quarter, and earnings per share were $5.23, compared to $3.04 a year earlier.

The company had revenues of $19.1 billion during fiscal 2023. On Monday, Parker's market capitalization was just over $71 billion.

Deep roots

Gormley said he wasn't aware of any plans yet for Parker's 115,000-square-foot Kittery facility, which sits on 28 acres of mostly undeveloped land at 9 Cutts Road, across from a residential neighborhood and between U.S. Route 1 and the Maine Turnpike.

The property has an assessed value of $5.3 million, according to the Kittery tax rolls.

Built in 1967, the plant originally was home to the pneumatics business of Watts Regulator Co., now known as Watts Water Technologies, 150 years old and based in North Andover, Mass. The Kittery operation sold in 1978 to a British company, CompAir Ltd., later part of Invensys Ltd.

Parker Hannifin bought the business in September 2000 for an undisclosed price.

Like Watts, another maker of pneumatic and hydraulic parts for heavy industry, Parker has deep roots, beginning in 1917 as a manufacturer of air brakes for trucks and trains. It eventually aspired to become "the General Electric of fluid power," the New York Times wrote in a 1979 profile, noting that by then Parker had taken over 40 companies.

Still, Parker Hannifin was far from a household word.

"Even though the company ... is well known in manufacturing circles and has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 1964, it remains generally unknown to the public," the Times reported. "It is often confused with Parker Pen, although there is no connection."

Parker's most recent acquisition was completed in September 2022, when the company purchased British aerospace and defense contractor Meggitt plc for $7.2 billion.

Groundwater concerns

Over the years, the factory's various owners have had to deal with ongoing groundwater contamination at the Kittery site.

The plant has routinely handled hazardous materials in preparing, manufacturing and assembling its products, according to regulatory records. During the 1970s, the plant dumped up to 40,000 gallons a day of untreated, metal-laden wastewater into nearby Wilson Creek.

Provided Photo
An aerial photo shows the Parker Hannifin property at 9 Cutts Road, highlighted, in Kittery. The Maine Turnpike is shown at the left, with U.S. Route 1 running at the right.

Following a consent agreement with the Maine Attorney General's Office in 1978 and an enforcement order by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the plant reduced the discharges and installed treatment equipment. However, the contamination didn't end completely.

The new British owner, CompAir, "eliminated the process discharges involved in the machinery operations and sealed all drains, allowing untreated waste to be discharged into the soil in 1979 and 1980," according to a ruling in a subsequent legal dispute between the company and Watts.

More work by the DEP and the plant owners have led to regular monitoring of the site and the installation of wells that extract contaminated groundwater at two underground plumes. However, as recently as 2022, DEP test results showed the plumes still contain over a half-dozen "contaminants of concern," including vinyl chloride and tetrachloroethylene, both of which are toxic.

In some cases, the contamination exceeds safe levels set by the federal government, although the pollution appears to be contained. At one of the plumes, the source "is not depleted" and the plume "has the potential to become worse," according to a May 2022 report.

Attempts to obtain more information from Parker Hannifin about the site's contamination and clean-up efforts were not successful by Monday morning.

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