GORHAM — Maine manufacturers have faced many challenges over the past two years, from the pandemic to workforce shortages to supply chain issues. To combat those challenges, Maine MEP (Manufacturing Extension Partnership) encourages its clients to join forces and seek new collaborative opportunities. When Maine MEP brought together innovative small businesses Flowfold in Gorham and Alfred’s Upholstery in Alfred, both were able to improve productivity and retain employees.

Alfred’s Upholstery creates premium custom furniture and soft goods, including yacht interiors. But when the pandemic started many of their customers put a hold on orders, which hit the company’s revenue hard and they had to consider temporarily shutting down operations and furloughing employees.

Meanwhile, Flowfold, a manufacturer of minimalist wallets and outdoor gear, had shifted some of its operation to creating face shields and had won contracts with large accounts such as schools and hospitals, but was struggling to meet the demand for these face shields.

Fortunately, both Alfred’s and Flowfold are clients of Maine MEP, a comprehensive resource for manufacturers in Maine who work one-on-one with businesses to address all kinds of challenges. Maine MEP project manager Bill Whittier immediately saw an opportunity to connect the upholstery company to the wallet manufacturers. Whittier got the two companies on the phone, and within one week, Alfred’s was assisting with the manufacturing of Flowfold’s face shields. Devin McNeill, the CEO at Flowfold, said, “We wouldn’t have been able to scale to meet the face shield market had it not been for Maine MEP’s expertise and connections.”

With the two companies working in unison to ramp up production, they were able to surpass a sales mark of one million shields. This robust business meant that Alfred’s replaced their lost revenue, retained all of its existing employees and added on fifteen new jobs. With revenue stabilized, Alfred’s owners Troy and Rebecca Delano were able to further invest in state-of-the-art fabric cutting equipment, which in turn allows Alfred’s experienced stitching operators to solely focus on the more value-added task of stitching product, positioning the company to take on significantly more business. “During the most challenging times we have ever faced, Alfred’s Upholstery & Co. was able to survive and be profitable. The passion and commitment Bill and MEP have for Maine small businesses is an amazing asset for all Maine businesses,” said Troy Delano, the company’s president.

In difficult times it is important to think creatively and work together to solve problems. Maine MEP can help make connections that lead to cooperation.

Maine MEP’s mission is to facilitate economic development in Maine by providing needed services to Maine’s manufacturers, helping them become more efficient, productive, profitable and globally competitive. Maine MEP provides free on-site assessments and can link clients with local and national expertise. To find out more, contact Maine MEP at [email protected] visit the website at mainemep.org.