Optimism alive for Monson furniture

Posted Dec. 22, 2010, at 12:16 a.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A Piscataquis County economic development specialist told Piscataquis County commissioners Tuesday that he is optimistic a small-scale furniture-making operation will be part of Monson’s future.

John Holden, interim executive director of the Piscataquis Economic Development Council, said Louise Jonaitis of Portland, who purchased the Moosehead furniture brand name and the contents of the former Moosehead Furniture Co. plant, has every intention of creating about 12 jobs in Monson.

Jonaitis, who took some of the equipment she wanted and the finished furniture from the Monson facility to another mill she owns in Maine, sold the remainder of the contents Saturday at auction.

“I’m very optimistic that she wants to make Moosehead furniture. I know she wants to make Moosehead furniture, and furthermore, I’m optimistic that she wants to do it in Monson,” Holden said. Jonaitis believes that human capital is key in Monson, he added.

Holden said he has been told that Jonaitis has equipment from the former facility and other facilities to make the Moosehead furniture.

“She’s passionate about doing it in Monson, [but] there’s some careful business decisions that have to be made regarding that site” of the former Moosehead plant, he said.

The PCEDC has contracted with a firm to do an environmental assessment of the Monson property. The economic development council and Monson will address any concerns once the assessment has been completed, Holden noted.

“We are trying to address those. I have to stay optimistic,” Holden said. “I’m going to do everything that I can, that I know of, to help that facility be re-created, if you will, in Monson.”

Holden also updated the commissioners on his work to help Dover-Foxcroft and the Arnold Development Group, which has an option on the former Moosehead Manufacturing plant in Dover-Foxcroft. The Arnold Group wants to redevelop the former mill into housing, an inn, a restaurant, business space, a farmers market and possibly a community kitchen.

Work also is continuing with Milo officials on the Eastern Piscataquis Industrial Park and downtown redevelopment, Holden said.

Janet Sawyer, an economic development specialist, also gave an overview of the projects she was involved in, including her work with the Maine Woods Tourism Training Initiative, an effort involving six counties to train tourism businesses.

“Our goal is to help tourism businesses with things like front-line customer service,” she said.

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The Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District is investigating the construction of a community kitchen on the Law Farm on the Milo Road property it owns, Sawyer said. She is assisting the district in a planning grant to determine whether there is a need for it and what it might look like.

Sawyer said that among other projects, she is working with Greenville to finish up the Junction Wharf funding and with Monson regarding the Narrow Gauge Railroad.

The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum in Portland has invited Monson to bid on having part of the Narrow Gauge Railroad collection returned to Monson for its own museum.

In addition, Sawyer said the Friends of Central Hall in Dover-Foxcroft is working to convert part of the historic Central Hall into an adult day services program for the elderly. Under the plan, the elderly would have a place to go during the day so families could go to work without worry, or the seniors could get help with bathing and other elder care, she said.

Holden also updated the commissioners on the search for a new executive director for the PCEDC. He said the resumes submitted for the position would be reviewed soon.

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