The Hathaway Creative Center in Waterville. Credit: Brian Swartz

Using small pieces of tails and ears to identify the genetic makeup of mice and rats for research clients, a Waterville company expects to boost sales 60 percent, triple its production lab space and hire up to three more staffers this year.

GenoTyping Center of America, also known as GTCA, set up its second Maine office in Waterville’s Hathaway Creative Center in October 2018. Its business office is at the Union River Center for Innovation in Ellsworth. The company tests mice and rat parts for scientists to make sure the animals have the precise genetic makeup they need for their research.

“Our revenue grew 30 percent from 2017 to 2018, and we expect it to grow another 60 percent this year,” said Kat Taylor, director of business development and co-founder of the company. She would not comment on the revenue numbers.

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Taylor cited new services and new clients at research universities, research institutions and other biotech companies over the past six months as the reasons for the growth.

The company has added four lab technicians in Waterville in the last six months to have a total of five people there, including company CEO Todd Dehm, another co-founder. The four co-founders formerly worked at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor.

Hiring workers is easy

The Waterville location was chosen because Dehm and his wife live there and it is close to Kennebec Valley Community College and the University of Maine at Augusta. Dehm said GTCA has hired staff from both colleges.

“We haven’t had a problem getting people interested in working for us here,” Dehm said, adding that hiring is more challenging in other Maine locations. “We get 30 to 40 applicants when we advertise a position.” So far, the company hasn’t hired from Colby or Thomas colleges.

GCTA started in 2012 in Bangor’s BanAir Industrial Park, but moved to Ellsworth in 2016 to take advantage of coaching and other business amenities at the Union River Center for Innovation.

There will be five employees in Ellsworth by early February, including a new salesperson and an account manager.

“Before those two hires, we did digital marketing and sales through word-of-mouth,” Taylor said.

[New Jackson Lab facility could be catalyst to grow biotech business in Ellsworth]

The company currently occupies 700 square feet in the Hathaway Creative Center, but is considering expanding into 1,500 square feet of adjacent space if it can raise $100,000 to $150,000 from small loans, venture capitalists or grants, Dehm said.

He said that because the building is part of Waterville’s Opportunity Zone, investors could benefit from the federal program.

Waterville is one of 32 Opportunity Zones in Maine. The federal program will allow investors who put money into businesses inside the zones to defer and possibly get breaks on their capital gains taxes. The incentive intends to encourage investors to cash out existing investments and redirect them to smaller businesses or properties in economically distressed areas.

“We’d triple in size,” he said. “I’d love it if we could do that this year. We have a pretty big need to purchase extra equipment because business is booming.”

Redevelopment centerpiece

Credit: Courtesy of GenoTyping Center of America

Dehm said most of the Hathaway Creative Center is occupied. Other businesses in the center include the Waterville Brewing Co., KV Crossfit fitness center, collaborative office space and an artists’ area.

The creative center formerly housed the C.F. Hathaway shirt mill, which supplied shirts for Union soldiers during the Civil War and shirts for men and boys, until the factory closed in October 2002. It was the last major U.S. shirt factory.

New York real estate firm North River Co. bought it in February 2017 for $20 million from a developer who had purchased it in 2006 and renovated it into offices and apartments on the city’s riverfront.

[Waterville gets $7.3 million from the feds to revitalize its downtown]

The building is a major part of Waterville’s ongoing redevelopment, which includes a $20 million commitment in October 2016 from Colby College and the Harold Alfond Foundation to upgrade the downtown.

Garvan Donegan, senior economic development specialist at the Central Maine Growth Council in Waterville, said GTCA’s move into the city added to the plan to grow the downtown’s technology ecosystem.

“The company builds on the technology we are achieving downtown, which is one of our strategic goals for a knowledge-based economy,” he said.

Collaborative Consulting, an IT-services company bought by CGI Group in 2016, leased space in the Hains Building in downtown Waterville and vowed to bring 200 jobs to the area.

“The technology and biotechnology companies offer the possibility of forming a technology cluster in Waterville,” Donegan said.