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Diverse Manufacturing Base Makes Home in Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Maryland's Eastern Shore region boasts an array of manufacturers involved in developing innovative products and services.

By Cary Estes on May 5, 2015

When Maryland native and veteran guitar builder Joe Knaggs left one of the country’s largest guitar companies in 2009 to form Knaggs Guitars, he searched his home state for a location and found himself drawn to Caroline County in Maryland’s Eastern Shore region.

“The people here have been wonderful to work with,” Knaggs says, noting the Caroline County Economic Development Corporation in particular. “They helped us get loans in the beginning to start the business, and they recently worked with us on another loan.”

At his Greensboro facility, Knaggs, his partner Peter Wolf, and their staff of designers and luthiers create impeccably styled, high-end guitars for a worldwide market of musicians that includes Nils Lofgren, a member of the E Street Band who backs Bruce Springsteen. The instruments are exported to Germany, Japan and England and distributed nationally, the styles of which are all named after American Indian river names, including rivers and tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay.

Diverse Companies, Innovative Products

Maryland’s Eastern Shore is home to an array of manufacturers, many of which fabricate innovative products that are sold globally. From plastics to yachts and guitars to medical devices, the region’s rich manufacturing history, strong work ethic, and strategic location approximately 70 miles from Baltimore and the nation’s capital make it an ideal location to make and ship products.

In Cecil County, fabled manufacturer W.L. Gore & Associates, inventor of the waterproof Gore-Tex fabric, makes medical products and operates a research and development facility in Elkton. The company employs more than 2,300 workers in Cecil County and is the county’s largest employer. In 2013, Gore announced its commitment to expand its facilities in Elkton, a $30 million dollar capital investment. Terumo Medical Corp., which develops and manufactures medical devices, supplies and accessories sold around the world, also has two production facilities and a $1.7 million product development laboratory in Elkton.

Other manufacturers with Cecil County operations include propellant and rocket motor maker ATK, DuPont Performance Polymers and GE, which makes railcars in Elkton.

Talbot County is also home to a collection of diverse manufacturers, including contract pharmaceutical manufacturer and packager Aphena Pharma Solutions, which operates a 110,000-square-foot facility for its liquids and topical division in Easton that employs 180. Jasco, a Japanese-owned company that makes a range of spectroscopy and chromatography analytical instruments, maintains its North American headquarters in Easton.

Advanced Technologies

Industrial manufacturers populate Kent County, including Dixon Valve and Coupling, which employs 375 and makes hose fittings and accessories for a range of industries, and Gillespie & Son, which produces precast concrete products for construction markets. In Chestertown, the LaMotte Company designs and produces water quality and analytical testing equipment for labs, and Eastman Specialties makes plasticizers and synthetic oils used in everything from book binding to protective coatings for automobiles. Metal mesh and wire cloth maker Cambridge International is based in Dorchester County, along with LWRC International, which makes weapons and accessories for warfighters. Other top manufacturers in the county include corrugated box maker Interstate Container, specialty gases producer Air Liquide America and electronic packager Egide USA.

M&M Refrigeration in Federalsburg has grown from a regional service contractor to a tri-state international manufacturer of industrial refrigeration equipment and controls, offering the largest selection of screw compressors in the world. With more than 100 employees working in a 100,000-square-foot facility in Caroline County, the company’s ground-freezing technology provides the mining industry with portable chilling systems used in drilling vertical shafts and deep excavations to keep quicksand and sediment from seeping into the ground.

With its location amid the splendid natural attraction of Chesapeake Bay, many in Maryland’s Eastern Shore region’s manufacturing base say they couldn’t think of anywhere else they’d rather be.

“The people are very helpful, and it’s great to know everyone,” Knaggs says. “It’s so nice to drive here every day, by beautiful farms and through very little traffic. I feel really good about it.”

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