WATERVILLE — Ten manufacturing jobs have been created in the city as a Vassalboro farmer prepares to start turning hay that is unsuitable for livestock into fire logs in a former bakery building that has been empty for more than 15 years.

Bragdon Farm LLC, a company formed by farmer Peter Bragdon, will make the fire logs in a manufacturing plant being installed in 11,000 square feet formerly occupied by Harris Baking Co. between Sanger Avenue, North and Harris streets, which closed in 1998.

Work to renovate the former bread factory was helped by community development money, including a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant applied for by the city and a $160,000 loan from Wiscasset-based Coastal Enterprise Inc., a community development financing institution.

City Manager Michael Roy said now that the jobs have been created, the city will hold a public hearing as required by the grant, which is federally funded but state administered, to let the public know the grant produced the jobs as promised. The hearing will be at 6:45 p.m. April 7 in City Council Chambers.

Bragdon operations director Ray Bernier said the assembly line was being built this week with the help of Italian engineers, and it should be completed next week.

“It’s a key milestone. When we turn on the line, that’s something the team still has to decide,” said Bernier.

Bernier said the 10 new jobs are active, and they intend to hire an additional employee. The jobs include five different manufacturing jobs, ranging from machine operator to supervisor. The business has also hired administrative staff for the business.

Sterling said the site was chosen for its easy access to a rail line.

Bragdon previously said in a press release that he hoped to have hay logs for sale by the first quarter of this year. The company will begin manufacturing its first prototype logs immediately following plant assembly, according to a press release Thursday. Following prototyping and testing, the company anticipates to start selling their product in the fall.

Bernier said it has taken longer than anticipated to renovate and update the building.

“It’s been a long process. It’s a very old building,” Bernier said.

Bragdon bought the entire 40,000-square-foot building in January from Dirigo U.S. Ranger Cadets and is making plans for the part not used for manufacturing hay logs.

The operation is in the garage area of the building. When plans were announced in August 2013, Darryl Sterling of the Central Maine Growth Council said the business would either rehabilitate the larger section of the building or demolish it and build a new one.

The building fell into disuse after Harris Baking struggled through closing and reopening as a specialized bakery before ceasing operations in 1998. City and economic development officials have said that Bragdon’s investment in the building is a positive addition to the city.

At the height of operations as a bakery in the early 1950s, Harris employed about 200 people and provided baked goods to homes and stores throughout central and northern Maine. It first closed in 1994, opened again in 1996 and closed for good two years later. The building sustained additional damage from arson in August 2009.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]


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