MONSON, Maine — Local residents and the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council are giving Louise Jonaitis, the new owner of the Moosehead Manufacturing plant in Monson, a hand.
About 12 residents voted at a special town meeting Thursday night to apply for a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant which Jonaitis could use as operating capital.
Jonaitis and John Holden of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group of Bangor, who is under contract with the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, were in Augusta on Friday to submit the grant application before the 4 p.m. deadline.
Jonaitis said Friday that she is extremely pleased with her purchase and the support from the community.
“Oh, my gosh, it’s like an old-fashioned barn raising — people are so nice and they’re so happy and they’re very, very down to earth people,” she said. “You can tell that was their culture, that [the Moosehead brand] was their identity.”
Owner of the Grand State O’Maine Land Co. in Newry and Hanover and co-owner of a couple of other Maine manufacturing companies, Jonaitis submitted a $1,050,000 bid at public auction last month to become the new owner of the plant.
A closing on the property is expected on or about Oct. 30, Jonaitis said. While the boiler in the plant is being repaired, Jonaitis said the company will rent space in the Monson Community Center, the former school, for Web development and a showroom.
“We figured why not have the first one [showroom] in Monson,” Jonaitis said. There is “quite a bit” of already-made furniture that can be displayed while the manufacturing process starts up in about two to three months, she noted. She expects to begin hiring new employees in mid-November.
If the CDBG grant is awarded, the company must guarantee seven jobs, but Jonaitis said she would start with 12 employees the first year and expects to have 30 employees by the second year.
Monson Town Manager Julie Anderson said Friday she was very optimistic about the future success of the furniture-making business.
“She has great ideas and some new ideas,” Anderson said of Jonaitis.
Anderson said the grant funds would not only create jobs, but would help Jonaitis repay the approximately $87,000 owed to the town in back and current real estate and personal property taxes. The buildings are assessed by the town at $1.36 million and the personal property is valued by the town at $1.22 million.
Holden, who has been assisting Monson and Jonaitis with the venture on behalf of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, said Jonaitis also is receiving help from a group of advisers from the University of Maine and the state. She is on track to get the “new Moosehead back up and running,” he said.