KINGFIELD – Poland Spring Water Co. celebrated the start of full operations Monday at its newest bottling facility in Kingfield.

Gov. John Baldacci helped cut the ribbon on the state-of-the-art facility and toured the plant.

He also visited Mt. Abram High School to see its new pellet heating system.

“We are pleased that Poland Spring is investing more than $60 million in rural Franklin County and creating a world-class LEED-certified plant with 40 new local employees – all in the midst of a global economic recession,” Baldacci said. “For Kingfield it’s good news in a bad economy.”

Baldacci referenced the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

It wasn’t just the new state-of-the-art facility or the clean working environment but the opportunity for a good job that employee Shain Romanoski of Strong spoke most about as he waited with other guests for the event to begin.

“Strong lost so many manufacturing jobs . . . so I came over here and I love it,” Romanoski said of his employment with Poland Spring since November.

The company expects to continue to grow to about 50 full-time employees and part-time summer help, plant manager Cameron Lorrain said.

“We’ll grow to meet volume needs,” he said of the current operation that now is producing approximately 18,000 cases of water daily on two production lines in the facility built for four lines. Next month, the crew will start working round the clock seven days a week and boost that to 50,000 cases of spring water piped from springs about four and a half miles away, he said.

“With less than 1 percent of Maine’s water used to be bottled, the plant only adds jobs, dignity and benefits to this region,” said John Richardson, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development. “The sun never sets on Poland Spring all around the world, a testament to the leadership of Poland Spring.”

A small group of fifth-graders from Kingfield Elementary School attended the event because Poland Spring has set up a trout program in their classroom, teacher Amanda Bowen said.

“They are very community oriented and set up a program that will allow the students to raise trout from eggs till they are ready to be released next spring,” she said.

Selectman John Dill said the company has also made a large impact on the community through its support of a variety of projects such as installation of a new playground, Kingfield POPS, scholarships and more.

Poland Spring employs more than 800 people in Maine while providing about $40 million in payroll to the Maine economy, and spends more than $65 million with other Maine vendors. The Kingfield plant joins two other bottling plants in Poland Spring and Hollis.

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