Abbott Laboratories, which makes rapid-result COVID-19 test kits in Scarborough, is planning to expand and ramp up production in Westbrook.

The company is renovating and expanding a building on Bradley Drive, which had been used as a distribution center for sporting goods retailer Olympia Sports, to convert it into a manufacturing facility for COVID-19 test kits. Olympia was acquired last fall by JackRabbit, which operates stores in 17 states. Olympia had more than 150 stores before the acquisition, mostly in the Northeast, but it announced in December that 76 stores would close.

Abbott is headquartered in Chicago. In Scarborough, it produces about 50,000 of its ID Now COVID-19 test kits daily. Abbott says the tests determine within about 15 minutes whether a person has been infected with the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus.

The company has distributed 2 million of the test kits in the United States, said Scott Stoffel, a spokesman for Abbott.

Government officials, including President Trump, have touted the efficacy of the test kits, although they have come under increased scrutiny after preliminary findings from a recent study indicated they are returning a high rate of false negative results. Stoffel said the company’s own studies indicate the test kits are highly accurate.

Earlier this month, a Saco staffing firm announced that it was helping Abbott search for new workers to make the test kits. The staffing company initially said it was looking for 1,000 people to produce test kits, and then later said the number had increased to 2,000.


It was not clear whether the demand for 2,000 workers was exclusively at Abbott, or if other firms that do similar diagnostic testing work in southern Maine also were seeking new employees through the staffing firm.

The Westbrook site, which would be expanded by nearly 38,000 square feet, would accommodate some of those new employees. In papers filed with the city, Abbott said it hopes to ramp up to full production in September, with a peak employment of 470 workers.

The company said that it plans to implement an automated production process at the site, and that the number of workers it needs there will decrease after it’s running.

Abbott is currently allowed to have about 175 employees at the site, the same number authorized for the Olympia facility, said Jennie Franceschi, Westbrook’s city planner. She said the company has applied for permission to expand the parking lot to about 400 spaces to accommodate the larger workforce.

Olympia had received permission to increase the size of the parking lot more than a decade ago, Franceschi said, but it never followed through on the plans.

The expansion proposal will go before the city planning board on June 16, and Franceschi said no problems are anticipated because of the approval Olympia received when it was using the building.


Westbrook Mayor Michael Foley said Tuesday that the city is excited to have Abbott expand into its industrial park.

Stoffel said Abbott has not yet decided which test kits it will produce in Westbrook, or the production capacity at the site. He said that the company has obtained emergency approval to produce four other coronavirus test kits beyond the ID Now test. The company also makes test kits at other facilities in the U.S., he said.

He declined to say how many people work at Abbott’s facility in Scarborough, citing competitive concerns.

Abbott also has received approval to expand its Scarborough facility by 20,000 square feet, said Jay Chase, the town’s planner. He said the town and the company have had informal discussions about expanding to another site in Scarborough, but that Abbott has not delivered a formal proposal, or said if it still plans to go ahead with the expansion at its current facility.

Failing to implement early and widespread testing is one area where the Trump administration has been criticized for its efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Abbott and other private testing labs have been working to fill the supply gaps left by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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