Government shutdown throws wrench in business plan

Additional reporting by American and Mount Desert Islander staff

HANCOCK — In December, Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse was just days away from getting a green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to start production of its artisanal cold-smoked Atlantic salmon.

Then the federal government shut down.

“We are in total limbo,” owner Leslie Harlow said this week. “The FDA agent assured us that within 14 days she would have her report done and we would be up and running by mid-January.”

“Our paperwork is sitting on somebody’s desk and no one’s working, so we can’t get any answers,” Harlow said.

“I have five employees and nobody has any work right now,” she said. “Everything is at a standstill.”

Harlow isn’t ordering any supplies.

“Until I know there’s going to be cash flow, I’m not placing an order with anyone,” she said.

To say the business owner is frustrated is an understatement.

“We had a great inspection process,” Harlow said. “It went really well. They had some great suggestions.”

The Route 1 smoked seafood processor is an established business with thousands of customers. But, it hasn’t been able to manufacture since losing its license from the Food and Drug Administration.

“Two and a half years ago, I took it back over from my former business partner,” Harlow said. “It’s a very strong Maine brand.

“Because the business had gotten into trouble, the FDA made us go back to the very beginning as if we were a very brand new business,” Harlow said.

The trouble partly involved embezzlement by two former employees. The case has since been adjudicated.

Harlow and her staff specialize in smoking Atlantic salmon raised in Canada’s Bay of Fundy separating New Brunswick from Nova Scotia. The multi-stage process involves curing, rinsing, cooling and smoking the freshly harvested fish in kilns at a maximum temperature of 90 degrees F.

Both the private and public sectors are feeling the pinch of the partial government shutdown in its third week.

Since the shutdown began on Dec. 22, it has been reported that more than 470,000 employees of the government are working without pay. Others, including about 100 employees of Acadia National Park, are on furloughed leave until the government resumes operations.

Coast Guard stations throughout New England and the rest of the country are continuing to operate during the partial government shutdown even though funding is limited or unavailable.

“The Coast Guard, as a whole, is still working,” said Petty Officer Third Class Zachary Hupp out of the First District External Affairs Office in Boston. “The pay is not really up to us … We do still have to maintain what is expected of us.”

While Transportation Security Administration personnel are not being paid for their work to ensure passenger and flight safety, so far it’s business as usual at Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton, according to Airport Manager Brad Madeira.

Dorathy Martel, executive director of the Next Step Domestic Violence Project, said “at least 80 percent” of the group’s funding is federal.

“It’s a dicey situation for us but so far we’re okay,” said Martel. “If the shutdown goes on much longer and we have to borrow to keep going we can never recoup the cost of interest on loans, the extra processing and delays, that’s all money that comes away from our ability to provide services. In addition, it makes staff very uncomfortable about how they’re going to survive from day to day.”

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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