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Business is booming for the Lee Company’s industrial microhydraulics group, so much so that it is expanding its Westbrook Pequot Park Road site by approximately 100,000 square feet. The company is about seven months into a 14-month project that, by increasing the size of its present building, it expects will lead to the hiring of more staff and result in a boost in productivity.
The building and infrastructure project—without the cost of additional equipment—will cost upwards of $10.6 million, said David Maiden, building official for the Town of Westbrook.
The Lee Company, which was founded in 1948, manufactures liquid control products for a wide range of industries, including aerospace, automotive, and medical and scientific equipment.
“We have 10 different product groups,” explained CEO Bill Lee, a son of the company’s founder, Leighton Lee II.
The industrial microhydraulics group is currently located at 82 Pequot Park Road in Westbrook, “and will be utilizing the expanded space once it’s completed. That group makes parts for automotive and industrial purposes.”
Microhydraulics is a subset of the company’s fluid control products, Lee explained. Hydraulics systems move liquids through pipes or other channels in order to deliver force, and microhydraulics creates especially small versions of those systems.
Microhydraulics is about “doing work,” said Lee.
“For that particular group, there’s a lot of automotive applications and some of that is emissions control systems, anti-lock braking systems, transmissions—these are components that go into someone else’s system. So a lot of vehicle transmissions and medical disposables and a whole list of other assorted applications,” Lee said.
Since around 2009, the need for microhydraulics has been “experiencing very rapid growth,” said Lee.
“We make mission critical parts. It’s a very competitive world and we make them at a price point that makes them very attractive to our customers,” he said. “Every product we make is tested—mission critical applications have got to be top quality.”
Additional jobs will come with the added space, but the increase will happen over the long term, said Lee.
“The jobs don’t come all at once but our general rule of thumb is about one person per thousand square feet of space, so roughly 100 more jobs, possibly a bit more because that is a three-shift operation there. Somewhere between 100 and 200 long term,” he said.
There will be a variety of jobs, Lee said—“Mostly production. With production comes additional engineering and support staff.”
Thus far, said Maiden, “the [building’s] foundation is in, the structural steel has been erected, the siding is 60 percent complete, and the interior framing is completed and they’re doing rough electrical and rough plumbing at this time.”
Maiden estimated that the building will be completed in July.
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