Puritan Medical Products Building in Guilford in June. Credit: Ernie Clark / BDN

A Guilford company that is the largest manufacturer of COVID-19 testing swabs in the United States will open another swab production facility in Tennessee, a company spokesperson said Thursday.

Puritan Medical Products will open a plant somewhere in the Volunteer State, though Marketing Manager Virginia Templet said she could not say where in the state it will be located or when it would open. It will be the company’s fourth plant and its first outside of Maine.

It’s the latest expansion for the family-owned medical supplier that has grown exponentially over the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic because it is one of two companies in the world that produce the nasopharyngeal swabs necessary for COVID-19 testing. The only other company that makes them is Copan Diagnostics, based in northern Italy.

The development was first reported Thursday by Bloomberg Businessweek as part of a profile on the company.

The federal government has provided the company hundreds of millions of dollars since the start of the pandemic as it scrambled to increase swab production. Puritan first expanded in July, when it used $75.5 million in funding from the Department of Defense to open a new plant in Pittsfield. Then, it used $51.2 million in federal coronavirus relief funding from the CARES Act to open another Pittsfield plant earlier this year. In January, the federal government awarded it $110 million to purchase production equipment necessary to increase swab production.

Last June, then-President Donald Trump even visited the company’s Guilford headquarters during an official presidential visit. It was Trump’s first trip to Maine since the start of his term in 2017.

Yet, the company’s rapid expansion was happening amid a backdrop of disputes between co-owners and cousins Timothy Templet and John Cartwright. In February 2020, weeks before the company’s swabs became critical in the fight against COVID-19, Templet filed a lawsuit in Cumberland County Superior Court to dissolve the cousins’ joint ownership of Puritan and Hardwood Products Co. because of “major, longstanding and irreconcilable disagreements” between him and Cartwright.

“Cartwright and Templet no longer speak, no longer make joint decisions, and are essentially unable even to be in the same room together,” Templet’s filing said. He requested that the court facilitate the sale of the company and appoint then-General Manager Terry Young as interim custodian to break deadlocks between Cartwright and Templet.

Cartwright denied Puritan’s management was deadlocked in an April filing responding to Templet’s lawsuit. He instead asked that the court require Templet to sell his share back to the company.

“The Cartwright Trust denies that there is an ongoing and intractable deadlock between the general partners,” Cartwright’s counterclaim said.