MILLINOCKET, Maine — Mechanic Nick Bell used a new press machine to repair a broken ball joint to a snowmobile and earned Jim’s Small Engine Repair and Auto about $225 on Friday, business co-owner Marlynda Faille said.
That might not seem like a lot, but it’s an example of how $152,104 in grants distributed by the Katahdin Area Recovery and Expansion Committee since January are helping businesses in and around East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket to expand services and add employees, said Rob Farrington, chairman of the KARE committee this year and of Medway’s Board of Selectmen.
“We have turned away work before because we couldn’t have done it. We lacked the equipment,” Faille said Sunday.
Jim’s Small Engine Repair is among 16 businesses the KARE committee has distributed funding to since January. The money comes from a 2002 state law that requires one-time Katahdin region mill’s owner Brookfield Asset Management and its subsidiary, Great Lakes Hydro America LLC, to pay $75,000 annually in economic development funds to the region as compensation for paper mill shutdowns and in exchange for using water from the Penobscot River to power its three hydroelectric dams.
The East Millinocket mill went into temporary shutdown in late January with plans to reopen by May 1, but leaders from present mill owner Cate Street Capital say the restart looks more likely by June 1. The Millinocket mill has been shut down since 2008. Brookfield sold the region’s two paper mills to Cate Street for $1 in September 2011.
“We are looking for stuff to spur jobs in the area. I would say we have probably added a dozen, with the potential for more, this time around,” Farrington said.
Brookfield has paid a total of $603,000 to the tri-town area to help expand and develop businesses to 63 businesses since 2008, Millinocket Town Manager Peggy Daigle said in a press release. The three towns rotate the chairmanship and organization of the committee annually.
Jim’s Small Engine is among three businesses to get $15,000 grants from KARE this year. The company bought eight pieces of repair equipment, including a diagnostic computer, ATV vehicle lift and press machine. Faille said she expects the equipment will expand the amount and range of business the repair shop can do.
LaPierre’s Cleaning Service of Millinocket received 15,000 for carpet and hardwood floor cleaners. Contractor Conrad Austin of Medway also received $15,000.
Pelletier Manufacturing Inc., with a shop just outside Millinocket, received $13,379. Hamlet Pub of East Millinocket received $13,650, and the Gateway Inn of Medway got a $12,500 grant, Daigle said. The rest of the disbursements ranged from $3,000 to $7,000.
Almost all of the grants went for new equipment or repairs. The Gateway grant will help pay for a new roof, Farrington said. Past grants went to various business and recreation efforts, such as a bridge to a multi-use recreational trail west of Millinocket, Katahdin area public-access television and upgrades associated with a snowmobile drag-racing track in Medway.
“Unfortunately there is no money left until September,” Millinocket Town Council Chairman Richard Angotti Jr. said, “at which time we will start taking applications for the next round of grants. It is important that we continue to assist the local business who are trying to grow in these tough economic times.”