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This week’s edition!

The Lewiston Raytheon Story

Part 1: Why Raytheon chose Lewiston and why it left

It is easy to understand why the area’s the last two generations identify the 1775 Lisbon Street structure as the “old” Liberty Mutual building, given their 1970 arrival as tenants (purchased from RCA in 1972 and vacated in 2022). It is also understandable that not many people remember that 2023 marks the 60th anniversary of Raytheon’s March 1, 1963, announcement to leave the Lisbon Street plant and relocate their transistor/computer memory manufacturing facility to Mountain View, California.

I do not recollect Raytheon’s opening in June 1961 and never knew much about how its arrival and departure impacted the state, Lewiston, and the greater L-A and Portland areas. It all began in 1957 when Raytheon hired Boston’s nationally recognized Arthur D. Little company, which, at the time, specialized in business operations research and analysis. The Little study would produce data on some 30 New England communities, resulting in Raytheon’s decision to select only Biddeford-Saco, greater Portland, and the L-A area as plant finalists.

Early media reports surfaced about Raytheon’s Maine interest in March 1959. By May, the Portland Press Herald revealed there were “rumors” that Lewiston would be selected. There was also a report that Bangor and Auburn had made last-ditch efforts to derail the selection process. In the end, Raytheon chose Lewiston because its wage rates were slightly more favorable than those of the greater Portland area.

When Raytheon issued their formal announcement of Lewiston’s selection on July 1, 1959, the company’s arrival into the L-A airport came complete with a police-escorted caravan into the city; a banner on one caravan convertible filled with city and Raytheon officials that read “Raytheon IS HERE!”; and a press conference and banquet at Lewiston’s DeWitt Hotel featuring prognostications of a statewide “industrial renaissance.”

Given the challenges associated with convincing manufacturers of their size to relocate to Maine in the 1950s, this was a significant achievement for the elected officials, Industrial Development Director Sam Michael, the resident-created Lewiston Development Corporation (LDC), and the State of Maine’s relatively new Department of Economic Development. Raytheon’s status as a significant national technology company signaled that the city’s economic development work was moving in the right direction.

Raytheon would formally open in June 1961 and sign a twenty-year lease for a building funded and owned by the LDC. All seemed well, and employee numbers would increase to 1,300 by 1962, but the unimaginable would happen on March 1, 1963. Raytheon unexpectedly announced they would leave Lewiston and move their operation, which had just begun

transitioning from germanium to silicon transistors, to a California silicon transistor manufacturing facility they had purchased from Rheem in 1961. It was a stunning announcement as this was all happening in the same year that Fairchild Semiconductor began operations in South Portland. Their new facility was fabricating the same kind of silicon transistors that Raytheon desired to make in California. The question was, why would Raytheon invest the energy and money in Lewiston and leave twenty months later?

Raytheon would say that the California plant was more efficient. Stories also circulated about how their unhappiness with the area contributed to their departure, statements that were utterly contrary to every public report made by the company. What Raytheon did not do was reveal how they failed to develop the kind of silicon semiconductor manufacturing technology developed by Fairchild in 1960 to fabricate competitive and superior silicon transistors. In 1959, they compounded their problems by expanding their germanium transistor manufacturing capability in Lewiston, underestimating the value of silicon transistor competition. These misjudgments would permanently erode their mid-1950s reputation as a transistor manufacturing leader.

Fairchild Semiconductor’s research and development in silicon semiconductors and their control of silicon semiconductor and integrated circuit patents established their early dominance in the analog electronics field. It also helped that the leadership provided by Dr. Robert Noyce, later recognized as the father of the integrated circuit (and co-founder of Intel in 1968), impacted Fairchild’s success in the early and mid-1960s. For Raytheon, their semiconductor/chip division’s missteps eventually led to their abandoning the division and its assets after being purchased by Fairchild Semiconductor in 1996.

The impact of Raytheon’s departure disappointed city leaders, but their resolve to overcome the setback produced a new tenant for the building. This economic development leadership can be traced to 1952 when Mayor Roland Marcotte created the Industrial Development Department, which worked with Lewiston residents who assembled the Lewiston Development Corporation that same year. Those efforts led to the Knapp Brothers shoe company expansion in Lewiston in 1953; the relocation of the New Jersey-based Geiger Brothers company in 1954; the creation of the area’s first business park, the Lewiston Industrial Park, in 1957; and the recruitment of the Raytheon Company. Lewiston’s resolve would also fuel more success in the future and inspire its twin-city neighbor Auburn, who would also create a similar development strategy in the 1950s.

Phil Nadeau has written about L-As history in his book “The Unlikeliness of it All – Part 1” and now produces a free YouTube history channel called “Deconstructing Lewiston-Auburn and Maine History.” See Episodes 1 through 4 for more Raytheon story details.

Radio Electronics Magazine, Feb 1953. Source:

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