A major expansion at FutureGuard Building Products on Merrow Road in Auburn is underway, at right. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Foundations, farms, frauds — it’s a two-Buzz week.

First up: FutureGuard.

FutureGuard Building Products at 101 Merrow Road in Auburn has been on a growth tear since the start of the pandemic, with a stuck-at-home populace anxious to relax outdoors.

The family-owned company announced $17 million of investments in 2020 between a new outdoor sunroom line and an awning line expansion, in addition to adding 70 jobs in October to the 125 employees it already had.

Turns out 2021’s looking big, too.

Brian Buteau, co-owner and vice president of operations, said Thursday that orders are up 64% year-to-date compared to 2020.

“We’re in an amazing situation right now,” he said. And, as new orders flow in, “we’re turning stuff around in less than seven calendar days. Typically, right now, we’re turning it around in three to four.”

FutureGuard received a permit for a $350,000 foundation last month. The roughly 110,000-square-foot addition, which was part of that $17 million, will start to go up in March and should be ready for manufacturing early in the third quarter.

It will bring the facility to nearly 400,000 square feet.

Buteau said they were able to hire 25 to 30 of the 70 jobs they were hoping to fill in the fall with 20 current openings and 30 to 40 people needed as the sunroom line fills out the new space.

“The City of Auburn is pleased to see the growth and excited to continue working on future expansion possibilities at the site,” Eric Cousens, Auburn’s director of planning and permitting, said. “Our goal is to create an environment that helps businesses succeed, grow and attract new investment. FutureGuard is a great success story in these challenging times.”

Permittedly yours

Local developers are not winding down over winter. From new permit reports out of Lewiston and Auburn:

• The $11.2 million, 51,930-square-foot Cancer Care Center for Central Maine Healthcare is officially underway with construction by AlliedCook Construction.

• A $52,000 project for BPL Plasma at 225 Main St. in Lewiston is creating a Bio Waste Room.

• A $320,000 project at 386 Minot Ave. in Auburn will remodel the interior of eight apartments, add one new unit and repair units in a building owned by Normand Robert.

• The Auburn Shaw’s is adding a new drive-up grocery storage space within the building at 600 Center St. in a $20,000 project.

• Just down the road: A new permit to fit up vacant space at 410 Center St. for the future Maine Smoke Shop, a $59,000 project.

• Humble Family Farms, which opened a medical marijuana storefront on Center Street last fall, received a permit for an $80,000 project framing interior walls at 271 Mill St. in Auburn.

And while we’re in that last industry: Agents at The Boulos Company in the last two months have helped broker leases for 2,778 square feet at 217 Main St. in Lewiston and 11,100 square feet at 140 Maine Mall Road in South Portland for Tradecraft Farms South Portland, according to Boulos.

Boulos describes Tradecraft as based in Los Angeles with Maine roots and “hoping to expand throughout the state.”

Lewiston city officials have had initial conversations with the company, according to staff, but Tradecraft has not yet applied for marijuana storefront approval. It’s unclear if it will be looking to offer medical or recreational use.

‘Shortage of restaurants’

Before the pandemic, Androscoggin County had close to the same rate of jobs and taxable retail sales in hospitality as Aroostook County.

There’s opportunity here for growth and reinvention as the industry starts to recover this year, Steve Hewins, outgoing president and CEO of HospitalityMaine, told the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce at its Thursday morning breakfast.

Steve Hewins Courtesy of HospitalityMaine

“Androscoggin County is underrepresented in our industry, dramatically so,” Hewins said. “I say this not as an indictment at all, I love this place … but I’ll say the opportunity is great here to grow this sector. We have a shortage of hotels, we have a shortage of restaurants, based on those number (compared to) the rest of the state. I leave that as an optimistic hope. A chance to reboot the industry gives this place a chance to take a look at that landscape and see what you do.”

In 2018, 13.6% of taxable retail sales in Androscoggin County were hospitality related compared to 13.4% in Aroostook County, according to Hewins. Food and lodging-related jobs accounted for 7.2% of total employment in Androscoggin, 7.3% in Aroostook.

Cumberland County, by comparison, had 19.2% and 9.6%, respectively.

Hewins said that while the industry’s heavy losses last year included 28,000 jobs, some of which might not come back, he feels optimistic looking ahead.

HospitalityMaine plans to release a proposed “Restart and Rebuild Plan” later this spring.

Keep your guard up

The Federal Trade Commission released its annual state breakdown of consumer fraud complaints and counted 6,234 reports in Maine for a total loss of $5.9 million to fraud.

The median loss was $211.

According to a news release, the most common complaint here was identify theft followed by imposter scams, online shopping and negative reviews, prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries, and banks and lenders.

Losses were up nationally, from $1.8 billion in 2019 to $3.3 billion in 2020.

Quick hits about business comings, goings and happenings. Have a Buzzable tip? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]

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