NORTH ANSON — A local gun parts manufacturer is looking to expand its company and create more jobs in economically struggling Somerset County by applying for a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Development.

Cousineau Wood Products, founded in 1959, has about 30 employees and is one of the five largest employers in Anson and North Anson, according to town administrative assistant Bob Worthley.

“We’ve been wanting to expand and grow. The market is endless for gun parts and we want to take advantage of that,” said Vice President Brody Cousineau. His grandfather founded the company, which moved to North Anson from Strong in 2001 and is part of parent organization Cousineau Forest Products in East Wilton.

According to the Maine Department of Labor, Anson had a labor force of 1,114 in 2012. Of that, 964 were employed, for an unemployment rate of 13.5 percent. The state average is 7.3 percent. Somerset County has an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent.

Cousineau specializes in the production of laminated wood products, including gun stocks as well as other wooden products including baseball bats, furniture and wooden wine stoppers.

In 2009, the company was awarded its first Community Development Block Grant, $60,000. The federal grants pay for projects in economically challenged areas and require that recipients use matching funding toward creating new jobs and that at least 51 percent of new employees come from low- and moderate-income families.

The grants must be applied for through the state, but the money is part of a federal program that’s intended to eliminate slum and blight, said to Jim Batey, director of the Somerset Economic Development Corporation in Skowhegan.

The 2009 grant money was used to add equipment for making color laminated wood, which is used in about 1,000 of the 5,000 to 10,000 gun stocks the company makes every week and sells to companies such as Sturm, Ruger & Co., Remington and H&R 1871, according to Cousineau.

Another grant would bring $151,000 to the company and enable them to hire at least six new employees, said Cousineau, although he said he anticipates hiring around 10 people from Somerset and Franklin counties.

The number may seem small but for the area, it is significant, he said

“There isn’t a lot going on in the area and for sure there are people looking for work. We get applications every week,” he said. “Ten people is a third of our workforce.”

The company’s goals include a three-step expansion of production, said Batey, who is helping the town of Anson apply for the grant on behalf of the company.

First, it would add DymaLux finishing, which allows laminated wood to be infused with plastic resins by a process of heating the wood and infusing it with plastic under pressure. The result is wood that is harder, denser and has a glossy finish.

They would also add production of pistol grip, the part of the gun held by the hand that orients it forward, and laser equipment to engrave the gun parts.

Finally, the company plans to add a finishing department, instead of sending parts out as it does currently, to increase production rates, according to Batey and Cousineau.

They said they should find out whether they will receive the grant by mid-August and Cousineau said he would look to hire between October and January.

Madison Paper Industries, which owns a power plant in Anson, is the town’s largest property tax payer, Worthley said.

Worthley said that the grant would help add jobs to the community.

“And jobs created means people are pumping that weekly payroll into the local economy,” he said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
[email protected]

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