AUGUSTA – Wednesday it was defending itself against charges of corporate exploitation, but on Thursday Poland Spring Bottling Co. was in the public eye for a more pleasant reason: Accepting an award for economic development.

The company was recognized by the Maine Development Foundation as a champion of economic development at MDF’s 30th annual meeting in Augusta. Laurie Lachance, president of MDF, praised the 163-year-old bottling company for its innovation and commitment to Maine.

“Poland Spring is an economic force, with a $40 million payroll and $65 million in local purchases,” said Lachance, adding that the company employs 800. “Over the last 15 years, it’s made a $439 million investment in Maine.”

That doesn’t include the $60 million that Poland Spring spent building its newest plant in Kingfield, due to open in the next couple of months. The facility will employ about 65 people and drew the admiration of several Franklin County people who wrote letters supporting the MDF honor.

“Leaders in all eight communities in which they have plant or spring sources have praise for Poland Spring’s civic and environmental practices,” wrote Alison Hagerstrom, chief of Greater Franklin Development Corp. in her nominating letter. “Poland Spring’s commitment to stewardship and sustainability of water is unsurpassed. And while doing this, they contribute locally and statewide by creating jobs, using local vendors and donating to programs that benefit local, regional and statewide organizations.”

The accolades extended to the company’s commitment to education. A $900,000 grant to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute initiated a statewide science and technology program that has drawn 28,000 middle-schoolers from the entire state in two years.

“They made an extraordinary investment in our future work force that will enable Maine to compete successfully in the global marketplace,” said Donald Perkins, president of the institute in his letter.

Tom Brennan, natural resources manager for the bottling company, accepted the award. He said two of MDF’s tenets – implementing sound public policy and communicating across all sectors – were pronounced during the company’s two-year process in securing its operation in Kingfield.

“The dialogue with Kingfield was open and successful,” he said, citing the town’s leadership and professionalism.

Forty-eight nominations for economic championship awards were submitted to MDF, with four recipients selected. Besides Poland Spring, Unum, The Jackson Laboratory and the Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center at the University of Maine were recognized.

At an editorial board meeting with the Sun Journal following the conference, Brennan said the Kingfield experience was a pleasure, unlike the bottler’s recent experiences in the southern part of the state.

A Berwick legislator has promised to introduce a new groundwater protection law aimed at curtailing bottling operations in the next session. Rep. Rick Burns made the announcement at a Portland rally Wednesday.


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