ST. GEORGE, Maine — The founder of a seafood processing plant that has closed said he hopes he still can avert a scheduled auction of the property, building and equipment.
Kyle Murdock responded by email Friday concerning the closing of Sea Hag Seafood’s plant. The facility and 7.5 acres of waterfront property at the mouth of Long Cove in Tenants Harbor are set to be auctioned off on June 17.
“Due to circumstances beyond our control, Sea Hag Seafood may be closing its doors for good this summer,” Murdock said.
The plant lost nearly an entire processing season in 2013 because of electrical problems, he said. In 2014, the company used its remaining credit to construct a wharf, which was to be paid for, in part, with a working waterfront grant through the Land for Maine’s Future program, he said. The project was approved for a grant, but it never was received, Murdock said.
Tom Miragliuolo, a senior planner with the working waterfront grant programs, said Monday that money had been allocated for the project but that the company did not follow through on steps such as getting an appraisal that were needed to receive the funding.
Murdock said other issues also led to the closure.
“With increasingly challenging market conditions, it became clear to us last fall that we needed to make changes to our business model and negotiate a new agreement with the property owner and our other creditors,” he said.
He said after many months of hard work, including offering the property for sale, and seeking new investment, new partners and new business relationships, the April 30 deadline for coming up with a final plan passed without an agreement in place.
He said the owners of the property, Sea Hag Holdings, have decided to sell it through auction. He said Sea Hag Holdings consists of a group of investors for which he serves as the day-to-day manager. The latest filing for the corporation dated June 1, 2015, with the Maine Secretary of State’s Office lists only Murdock’s name. No other names or officers of Sea Hag Holdings are available in the filing.
“I am still striving everyday to bring a deal to the table that will delay the auction and return our processing business to operation,” Kyle Murdock said.
In the meantime, the company continues to buy and sell live lobsters and bait as Sea Hag Fish and Lobster Co., he said.
He thanked the former employees of the plant and the people from the local communities for their support.
“It has been my honor to be a part of the St. George community since starting this venture in 2010, and I look forward to continuing to be a part of this community for many years to come,” he said.
Murdock had said in a 2012 interview with the BDN that the planning for the processing plant went on for two years before it opened in September 2012.
The project’s financing included a nearly $1.7 million loan from Camden National Bank and a $400,000 grant through the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.
The grant money was provided to the company after it created 23 jobs for low- and moderate-income workers and after it met the terms of the federal program, Maine DECD spokesman Douglas Ray said last week. The town of St. George had sponsored the grant application but the municipality will not be liable for any repayment because the jobs were created.
Records filed in the Knox County registry of deeds office show the Maine Department of Labor placed a lien of $10,166 on the Sea Hag in June 2014 for failure to pay payroll taxes. The department placed another lien of $408 on the company in December 2015 for the same reason.
In a September 2012 interview with the BDN, the then 23-year-old Murdock, a Monhegan Island native, said while he was at college he became concerned about the fate of the lobster industry with plummeting prices and as much as two-thirds of lobsters from Maine being sent to Canada for processing.
Sea Hag Seafood operated in the former Great Eastern Mussel Farm plant, which had been foreclosed on in 2009 by The First bank. The First sold the 7.5-acre waterfront parcel in March 2011 to Shining Sails Inc., which is owned by Kyle’s parents, John and Winifred Murdock. Sea Hag Holdings LLC purchased the property from Shining Sails in 2013.