Joseph Smith, left, and Jared Gosselin work on the retractable awning mechanism at FutureGuard Building Products in Auburn on Tuesday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — FutureGuard Building Products’ retractable awning sales just keep going up and up.

With outdoor space a hot commodity during the pandemic, the family-owned company has invested an additional $5.5 million in new equipment and fabric and looking to hire at least 70 more workers in the next 90 days.

It comes on the heels of an $11.5 million investment in a new outdoor sunroom line earlier this year.

“Outdoor living is the hot trend and it’s going to be the hot trend,” Brian Buteau, co-owner and vice president of operations, said Tuesday.

Orders are pouring in from homeowners, restaurants adding awnings for outdoor seating and schools converting outdoor space to classrooms.

“Obviously, with COVID, everybody needs some outside space that’s open-air and a retractable awning is a perfect fit to that need,” he said.

The Auburn City Council toured the factory Monday night, and no surprise, that building is growing, too: Another 47,456 square feet, a $1.5 million project approved by the Planning Board last week.

Customers have their choice of fabrics when ordering retractable awnings from FutureGuard Building Products in Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“FurtureGuard is an example of what most cities dream about having: a family-owned manufacturer with a diverse client list that employs dozens of skilled craftsman and professionals at a high wage with unlimited growth potential,” Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque said. “I believe their future growth will inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs and high-tech manufacturing careers within our city.”

FutureGuard, at 101 Merrow Road, has grown through a series of expansions since October 2017. Most recently, it was in the midst of an expansion approved earlier this year for its new SummerSpace line of free-standing screen- and glass-paneled rooms when they realized they needed more room for awning manufacturing, Buteau said.

Construction should be finished this winter.

“We’re doubling our assembly benches, which is what we make the awnings on,” he said. “Right now we’re working off of nine benches and we’re going to add another nine. It will be 18 guys every day just building retractable awnings; each guy should build five to six, sometimes 10, so we’re going to increase our manufacturing capabilities immensely.”

The high-end retractable awnings range from roughly $3,000 to $12,000.

FutureGuard also closed another company that it owns, Performance Powder & Paint in Auburn, renovated that building and is putting the 37,000 square feet there to use as a machining center, he said.

The company has 125 employees. The new jobs will be technician positions, working with the new machinery. Buteau said they’ll train the new hires and hope to attract people looking to make a change or who were let go due to COVID.

“There’s a lot of stress and pressure put on all of us and our employees, but we’re taking it as an opportunity and that everything happens for a reason,” he said. “COVID hit a lot of our competitors — they struggled for the season to keep up and they had 12-week, 14-week lead times. Right now, our manufacturing process is within days, three to four days out of our factory, where everyone is still multiple weeks, so we’re getting a competitive advantage.”


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