Today's Houlton Maine Rotary Club meeting was a field trip to Smith and Wesson, the facility making handcuffs, sport and military grade guns, firearms.
Since 1966 Smith and Weston quality has been a product produced in Houlton Maine.
The mother operation of S & W being in Springfield Massachusetts.
And a new Rochester New Hampshire facility was bought, put in to the Smith and Wesson production line.
The Houlton Maine Smith and Wesson plant out at the Airport Industrial Park produces an average of 1500 pairs of handcuffs a day. Their high output records are in the 1850 range. The employment numbers hover between 160 and 170 people per day with an average hourly pay scale of twelve dollars. The high output work ethic, the low cost of living in Southern Aroostook are two winning combinations.
But a third component, the Houlton Water Company, our local power, water, sewer provider offers below market rates.
HWC lower operating costs make it easier for an industry, factory, major power consumer to consider Houlton Maine as one super home for their operation.
Plus US Rt 1,2,2A and Interstate 95 all cross road here at the Gateway to the Atlantic Canadian Provinces.
All add up to why the manufacturing operation is still growing, still in business since 1966 in Houlton Maine.
Steadily growing larger from the small five person operation on US Rt 2A, the Bangor Road, housed in a small repair shop.
Now the Smith and Wesson facility in Houlton Maine is housed in 36000 square feet of manufacturing space with talk of expansion in the wind. Five lines of guns, firearms, pistols are produced here in Houlton Maine. On our Houlton Rotary Club tour of S&W, we saw large 1400 to 2800 coils of continuous metal for use in arms production. Pretty high tech place.
Houlton Rotarians witnessed, kicked tires on the 600,000 dollar presses from Sweden.
Capable of producing 250 tons of pressure. And viewed very industrious workers.
That knew what they were doing, and we moving fast to produce the product expertly, efficiently. Not wasting steps.
The West Virginia State Police side arm we were oohing and ahhhing about during the plant tour has one gun model specifically produced for their troopers with 750 delivered to date, according to S&W's Dan Soucy.
And orders for another 250 in production. This model 4566 should lead to others placing orders once word gets out.
Although not a standard issue, public available model at this time, it could lead to another gun that gains a spot in the line up at the Houlton Maine plant.
The laser etching, precision labor intensive but machine rich specialty manufacturing gave me a great feeling of pride and respect for this local Maine work force. And during this time of remembering the 911 tragedy, one Rotarian mentioned this place to work must make these men and women feel proud of what they do, the part they play in security.
The guns at the Houlton Maine Smith and Wesson facility are produced in a three station format (Toyota style) and twenty rounds of live ammunition is put through each and every gun for quality control testing assurance.
There is a state of the art firing range for gun testing each model.
Sometimes getting the ammo needed during scarcity times makes production in danger of being slowed up, delayed.
I was impressed with this hardworking best kept secret in Aroostook County. The Houlton Maine Smith and Wesson plant in the Industrial Airport firearms factory building is one shining example of an industry not out sourced, not jobs shipped overseas. And is about American a product as you can get. Maine, the people are down to earth, friendly but hard working. And glad to live, work, raise family in ME.