Over the last forty years, the economy in rural Maine has struggled. Draw a line from Sanford to Lewiston to Waterville to Bangor, then go north. You'll see mills that have shut down, stores that have gone out of business, schools that have far fewer students than they once did.
But in a part of the state that's been hit especially hard, you'll find a manufacturing business that has succeeded through an unlikely combination of tradition and innovation.
Hardwood Products Company bought a factory in Guilford in the 1940s. They picked the location because it's close to Maine's woods, and the products the company makes rely on white birch.
The company manufactures tongue depressors and ice cream sticks (the last to do so in America). And across the street you'll find Puritan Medical Company, that's a part of the business that's seen meteoric growth.
They make swabs.
But those swabs get used for everything from food service and crime scene work to medical tests. Every time there's an epidemic or outbreak, they have to crank out more and more swabs.
They make some 4 billion a year.
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