Construction crews work at the corner of Parsons Street and Central Drive in Presque Isle on the new F.W. Webb building scheduled to be completed by the beginning of 2024. Credit: Paul Bagnall / The Star-Herald

National plumbing and heating wholesaler F.W. Webb has started groundwork for a new $5.5 million building in Presque Isle.

The Bedford, Massachusetts-based supplier plans to move its only Aroostook County branch from Caribou to Presque Isle early next year.

The move is good news for Presque Isle, which has seen the recent closure of the Presque Isle Inn and hiccups with the Aroostook Centre Mall. But it will be another blow to Caribou, which has struggled for years to keep businesses in its downtown.

F.W. Webb operates in the six New England states and New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with 13 locations throughout Maine. With its County business thriving, the company has outgrown its Caribou space and wants to expand to Presque Isle because more businesses are locating there, officials said.

“We think that Presque Isle is the center of The County. There seems to be a lot more business moving there and growing there,” said Justin Gelinas, general manager of F. W. Webb’s Hampden site, which oversees Aroostook County operations.

The County branch has increased its customer base and added delivery trucks and design services since moving to Caribou in 1978, Gelinas said. The company decided to build new rather than invest in the smaller, older structure.

Capacity will triple from 9,000 square feet in Caribou to more than 30,000 square feet at the new building and a 10,000-square-foot mezzanine, Gelinas said.

The store will retain its nine Caribou employees and add around four new jobs, with the potential to add more personnel as business grows, he said.

The building site is at the corner of Parsons Street and Central Drive, which once contained the Fairview Acres housing development and is part of the Presque Isle Industrial Park. F.W. Webb purchased the roughly 6-acre parcel, which the city valued at around $200,000, for an undisclosed sum last year.

The location is part of the city’s 920-acre Tax Increment Financing district.

Winter weather delayed original plans to start construction late last year. Site work began the first week of April and is slated for completion in February 2024, according to Derek Wilson, F.W. Webb operations manager in Hampden.

The company plans to move by next April.

“The idea is to grow the business, gain new customers, and be in a busier location,” Wilson said.

Green Leaf Construction of Leominster, Massachusetts, is the project’s general contractor.

The Caribou building will be put up for sale as construction nears completion, Gelinas said.