LINCOLN, Maine — Town leaders are helping one of Lincoln’s oldest retail establishments diversify its manufacturing base and end a smoke problem that neighbors have complained about, officials said Friday.
Haskell Lumber Inc. and its manufacturing arm, LMJ Enterprises LLC, hope to learn within a few months if they have qualified for a federal Community Development Block Grant that would pay half of the estimated $300,000 to $500,000 cost for installing a filtration unit that would clean the air coming from LMJ’s wood-shavings mill, co-owner Mike McFalls said.
The Town Council voted unanimously on Sept. 11 to co-sponsor the company’s grant application to the state Department of Economic and Community Development, which administers the federal grant.
McFalls told the council that besides eliminating most of the blue haze and smoke that comes from the mill stack, the grant would help keep 10 workers employed making shavings and allow Haskell Lumber, a Main Street hardware store, to make the transition from a sawmill to a wood shavings operation.
“I can’t say that it will take care of 100 percent of it, but … the engineers and consultants we have employed feel that this should really put a dent in it — bring us well below the emissions for our air license requirements,” McFalls told councilors.
The wood shavings that Haskell produces are sold to a nationwide retailer and farm supply store for sale as livestock bedding, McFalls said. Nondisclosure agreements don’t allow him to publicize the retailer or technology used to make the shavings, he said.
Evidence of the manufacturing was plain enough at the facility on Friday. Several stacks of plastic-wrapped wood shavings packages several feet tall were arrayed across the business’s back lot.
“Given the economy, it has been a struggle. We continue to pursue trying to make this a viable venture and, of late, with much help from the town of Lincoln,” McFalls said.
Cheryl Russell, president of the Lincoln Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, urged councilors to support the company. The Haskell and McFalls families have deep roots in the community, she said, counting 27 full- and part-time workers between LMJ and the store.
“When you look at the forest products industry and sawmilling in this area, entrepreneurialism and innovation and the need to diversify have been extremely important, and this family certainly has done that,” Russell told councilors. “These jobs are jobs that are critical to this community.”
Town Manager Bill Reed referred comment on the grant application to Ruth Birtz, the town’s economic development coordinator. Birtz was not available on Friday.
Lincoln has a very competitive hardware market. Besides Walmart, the town has Aubuchon Hardware and Benjamin Tibbetts Inc. on West Broadway and Marden’s and Smart’s True Value Hardware on Main Street. Rogers Small Engine Repair also sells hardware goods on Main Street.
The company has been easing into wood-shavings manufacturing for the past two years, McFalls said. He said he was unsure how much manufacturing would occur this year.
“That is yet to be determined as we are still working on the process,” he said. “It depends on the market or the need.”