The Coca-Cola plant in Presque Isle will soon sport a new name when agricultural equipment manufacturer Spudnik moves in. The soft drink company will move up the road to a new, smaller building. Credit: Paula Brewer / The Star-Herald

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — In a unique move, the city of Presque Isle has funded a new building to house an international multibillion-dollar company that has done business there for around 90 years.

Coca-Cola, a mainstay in its large building on Airport Drive for more than 50 years, will move next month to another site at the Presque Isle Industrial Park.

Coca-Cola’s move to smaller accommodations ensures the company’s continued presence in the city and will allow a local agricultural equipment company to expand. The former aircraft hangar that houses Coke is nearly three times bigger than the industrial park space Spudnik Equipment Co. occupies.

At a time when many local businesses are suffering with utility costs, hiring difficulties and closures, retaining two longtime businesses is good news for the city and the industrial park. Coca-Cola employs 18 here, while Spudnik wants to grow its staff of eight in the next couple of years and has increased its East Coast service area.

“We have been looking for a building for the last few years, trying to find something that was perfect,” Spudnik Store Manager Ryan Pelkey said Monday.

Both companies worked with the Presque Isle Industrial Council, and when Spudnik said it needed the entire complex at 1005 Airport Drive, the city offered to build Coke its own building, Pelkey said.  

The situation worked out well for both businesses and the city, said Tom Powers, executive director of the Presque Isle Industrial Council.

Spudnik had been wanting to expand for a number of years, Powers said. When Coke changed its business model and no longer needed its large warehouse space, the council proposed housing both tenants in the building. But the equipment company wanted the whole space.

So the city built what was technically a spec building for Coke, which is a multinational company worth $286 billion that has a distribution center in Presque Isle. The Industrial Council funded the $1.5 million structure from three components: a building fund it allots money to each year, revenue from the Presque Isle Industrial Park and a loan.

The arrangement makes business sense, Powers said. Both companies have 10-year leases with options to renew, and the rent will offset the cost of the new building within that time.

“There is no downside to any of this scenario, because not only will Spudnik be enlarging their operation, [but] we retain Coke, which has been an employer in the area for 80, 90 years,” Powers said.

The agricultural equipment company opened in 2006 at 110 Airport Drive, servicing from Maine to Pennsylvania and Florida. The business has expanded into Michigan and Indiana, covering most areas east of the Mississippi, as well as in California, according to Pelkey.

At the current shop, crews can fit only one three-row harvester inside. The larger space will accommodate more equipment.

There’ll be another advantage in the winter.

“We unload everything outside, so we can only unload in the summer right now,” Pelkey said. “Now we’ll be able to have an indoor crane and will be able to unload equipment year round.”

Spudnik wants to hire another service technician in Presque Isle right away and hopes to add a parts person within a couple of years. The company is also seeking a technician in Michigan.

Cost efficiency drove the soft drink company to a smaller site, particularly as Aroostook’s population shrinks.

“We have to have full pallets of product shipped up in order to build loads, and we were having a hard time to go through a full pallet of certain items before the best-by date,” said Steve Hanning, Coca-Cola district manager for northern Maine. “And because of that, we weren’t able to carry as big a selection of products.”

The beverage giant moved into its current location in 1969, just after the former plant on Presque Isle’s Main Street burned. Coke eliminated its office here three years ago and the warehouse two years ago, Hanning said. Now, Presque Isle consolidates efforts with the Bangor branch.

Bangor employees load trucks for distribution there and in Aroostook County. The arrangement means that both branches use inventory from the same stock, so products are turned over more quickly, Hanning said.

“This is working so much better for us, and we’re able to get a much bigger selection of products with fresher dates,” he said.

Though in some ways he hates to leave the old building, the move is exciting, Hanning said. The scheduled move-in date is July 25.