The twin cities of Saco and Biddeford are located on the Saco River about 15 miles (24 km) south of Portland. After Lewiston/Auburn, they have in the past formed Maine's second most important industrial center, manufacturing primarily textiles and shoes.
Permanent European settlement dates to 1630. Ample water power supplied by 40-foot falls in the river led to industrial development after the mid-19th century. Leading companies included Laconia Mills, Pepperell Mills, and the Saco-Lowell Company Plant. At its peak, as many as 12,000 people worked in the local textile mills. Immigrants from Ireland, Albania, and Quebec made an important contribution to the community.
Many decades of industrial decline have forced drastic changes in the economy. Today, only one textile company, WestPoint Home, operates in the city. Many of the old mills are being redeveloped into new uses.