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Canadian man plans Rockland lobster processing plant in old newspaper building

ROCKLAND, Maine — A New Brunswick man is a few weeks away from opening a lobster storage and processing plant in Rockland’s Industrial Park that will add jobs and provide another place for lobstermen to sell their catches.

Frank Benoit said he chose Rockland because he has an existing business relationship with J & J Lobster that has been selling him lobsters for the past two years.

Benoit operates a lobster processing plant in New Brunswick that employs 240 people. He has operated Les Pecheries de Chez Nous Ltd. for 12 years in Tracadie-Sheila. His products go under the name of Capitaine Frank.

He has been in the fishing business for more than 30 years.

Benoit said he has purchased the building at 1 Gordon Drive in Rockland’s Industrial Park. The building has sat empty since July 2011, when Village Soup closed the printing plant, laying off 17 workers. The building was sold in May at a foreclosure auction after owner Richard Anderson closed the newspapers in his company. The First bank, which held the mortgage on the 1 Gordon Drive property, submitted the high bid of $150,000 for the property.

The First then put the property on the market.

Benoit said he expects to employ 40 people and that it will be a year-round business. The company also is employing electricians, plumbers, masons and other construction-related workers for the renovations.

Benoit said having a plant in Rockland will help him a lot in getting lobsters. He said he sells 95 percent of his product now to customers in the United States.

Through the fall, the company will be selling whole fresh lobsters and whole cooked lobsters. Starting in November or December, frozen products also are expected to be processed and shipped from the Rockland plant.

Renovations to the building have been ongoing for more than a week. Rockland Code Enforcement Officer John Root said the project does not require planning board approval since developments in the Industrial Park are exempt from that review.

Benoit’s cousin Mike Benoit will be the plant manager.

The state has been encouraging the establishment of lobster processing plants in Maine to add more value to the product caught in Maine waters.

Last week, Sea Hag Seafoods began operating its lobster processing plant on Long Cove in St. George.