SKOWHEGAN — A Kingfield company that makes reflective vests for dogs and horses to keep them safe during hunting season is applying for a $210,000 grant to take over the Dirigo Stitching Co. building in Skowhegan.

Maine Stitching Specialties LLC already is making Dog Not Gone Visibility Products at Dirigo’s Dane Avenue factory, said Jeff Hewett, Skowhegan’s director of economic development. The company is buying the Dirigo building and some of the stitching equipment from the current owner, Peter Schultz, of Rome, who is retiring.

“Friday is the last day of Dirigo Stitching; Monday is the first day of Maine Stitching Specialties,” owner Bill Swain told Skowhegan selectmen Tuesday night during a public hearing on the grant process. “We’re going to start small and grow. We’re going to introduce more technology, marketing and sales initiatives online.”

Swain said he and his wife hope to ride the “Made In America” wave by producing a variety of sewn products, including Skowhegan-made American flags.

Schultz opened the business in 1981, and at its peak, the company employed about 100 people, Hewett said.

The state Department of Economic and Community Development already has approved a letter of intent about the $210,000 grant. If the grant itself is approved, Maine Stitching will have to match the grant money with an equal amount. The grant program also calls for a minimum of seven people to be employed by the company once the money is secured, Hewett said.

“Although Dog Not Gone Visibility Products were designed by hunters, our dog and horse visibility products have been embraced by pet owners as a simple and effective way to keep their dog from being mistaken for game,” the company writes on its Web site. “If you and your pet enjoy spending time in the outdoors during hunting season, our products can give you (peace) of mind to know that your dog will be instantly identified as someone’s best friend.”

Hewett said revitalizing a local company that was in business for more than 30 years is good news for Skowhegan.

“This company is looking to bring back Dirigo Stitching, but in another form,” he said. “They want to take over the building, the equipment, and slowly build it back up to what it used to be.”

Hewett said people still are working at Dirigo Stitching as Schultz winds down his business, which makes curtains and blinds. Swain said his company will make 10 products, including privacy curtains for hospitals and doctors’ offices.

“Dog Not Gone has been in business for about 10 years and was doing a pretty good business, and when Peter (Schultz) said he was going to close down, either they were going to have to find a new company to make their products, or take over Dirigo Stitching,” Hewett said. “Maine Stitching will be their production side.”

The grant program would cover the purchase of equipment and provide working capital. Private financing is expected to fund the purchase of the factory.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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