Puritan plant in Pittsfield in October 2020. Credit: Charles Eichacker / BDN

The Guilford company that is the largest COVID-19 testing swab manufacturer in the U.S. will receive up to nearly $150 million from the Department of Defense to open up a new production facility in Tennessee, the defense department said this week.

Puritan Medical Products will receive up to $147 million to renovate a facility in Orlinda, Tennessee, and prepare the space to produce millions of foam swabs used to test for the coronavirus by February 2022.

In addition to its original production facility in Guilford, Puritan has two manufacturing plants in Pittsfield, one that produces foam swabs and another that makes flocked swabs. The Tennessee plant will be the company’s fourth and will be partially open by the end of the year, Puritan Executive Vice President Tim Templet said.

Templet said the company had chosen to locate its new plant in Tennessee because it was the “right choice” after some investigation by company officials. He did not elaborate on what drove the decision, and he would not say what type of building the facility will occupy.

Asked about further expansion for Puritan, Templet said there were no plans that he knew of at the moment.

A Puritan spokesperson had confirmed the new plant, the company’s first outside of Maine, earlier this month but would not reveal when it would open or its location in Tennessee.

Orlinda is a small city of fewer than 900 residents in Robertson County, Tennessee. It’s located about 45 minutes north of Nashville and just south of the Kentucky border.

Puritan, a family-owned medical supplier that produces a number of different swab types, has seen its business grow exponentially over the past year because it is one of only two companies in the world that produces the nasopharyngeal swabs used in COVID-19 tests. The only other company that makes them is Copan Diagnostics in northern Italy.

The company has received tens of millions of dollars from the federal government throughout the pandemic to expand swab production. It opened its two Pittsfield plants within the past year, using a $75.5 million Department of Defense grant awarded in April 2020 and a $51.2 million grant awarded last August.

In January, it received $110 million to purchase additional production equipment. 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.

A call to Orlinda’s city hall was not answered late Wednesday.