Last week this paper reported that local granola maker GrandyOats is “rehabbing the former Hiram Elementary School, which will triple their production space and include a line for their first gluten-free products.”
This is great news for several reasons.
(Note: I am from and currently reside in Cornish, a neighboring town of Hiram.)
Hiram Elementary is one of several schools in the MSAD 55 district that has been upended and forced to closure by the economic elements pushing Maine school systems toward consolidation. Schools, which are very particularly constructed, can be tricky to retrofit to the needs of businesses outside of education, and so this move means that the building will not become blight to the area by remaining unoccupied and becoming rundown.
Co-owner Aaron Anker explained in a Mainebiz article why the school made good sense for the location of their new factory:
It’s a 35-year-old brick school with a pretty open floor plan. It’s potentially a clean slate, and there’s room for expandability. It’s only 15 minutes from here, so we’ll retain all our employees. This year, we expect to put a substantial amount of our profits into the new facility. We are looking at solar and alternative energy, as we’ll need more climate control.
The move is also good news because, as the story reports, “if [the company] gets an expected $150,000 Community Development Block Grant from Hiram, it can add five employees as well.” If all goes to plan, 5 jobs will be created, meaning there will be more employment opportunities in town. Also, this Maine-based company will be able to grow its workforce by about 25%.
In the aforementioned Bangor Daily News article, Terry Day, assistant to the selectman of the Town Of Hiram, reflected similar sentiment:
“The town has lost two major businesses recently. Hammonds Mill burned down and never reopened and another business moved to Standish,” she said. “It’s wonderful that an environmentally friendly business is coming here, plus they are going to be hiring local people which is also good for Hiram.”
I like GrandyOats a lot, and not just because the product is great. I have run into co-owner Nat Pierce a few times in the past and he strikes me as a good guy and I have a handful of friends who have done creative work for the company who report the same of the company owners. I have an affinity for small, competitive companies that make it a point to make great product while staying local and investing in alternative energy.
As I posted about yesterday, I served farm-to-table and local food at the Ossipee Valley Music Festival and string camp. The company sought me out to put their product in my hands to give out to those attending the string camp. One could look at this cynically and say, “Of course they did. They were trying to increase their brand recognition.” Sure, but I work in a field connected to branding and communication, and I know that it takes a great deal of wherewithal to know which events and communities make the most sense to connect with, and to invest in. It takes being an active community member to do so effectively, and it strikes me that the folks behind GrandyOats are exactly that.
I am happy to welcome them to our region.