GARDINER — Four young companies are getting a funding boost from the state’s Community Development Block Grant program.

In May, Gardiner officials submitted requests to the program on behalf of Common Wealth Poultry and Lost Orchard Brewing for workforce development funds and on behalf of Central Maine Meats and Sebago Lake Distillery for economic development funds.

In July, they received word those requests were granted. That brings the total to $1.9 million that city officials have secured in two years for Gardiner companies.

“I think this demonstrates our economic development efforts in recruiting businesses that are growing are paying dividends in a big way,” Mayor Thom Harnett said. “We’re increasing valuation and that lowers the burden on taxpayers.”

City officials are also supporting increased employment opportunities and expanding the city’s brand as a food hub, because these companies — Central Maine Meats, Common Wealth Poultry, Sebago Lake Distillery and Lost Orchard Brewing — are involved in the food sector, he said.

“I also think this demonstrates that Gardiner is a place that businesses want to be,” he said. “They see the development and the amenities provided. The downtown is being continually revitalized and that makes it easier to attract employees. They can get quality child care at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Gardiner, and they have things to do here when they get done with work.”


Common Wealth Poultry, which leases space from Central Maine Meats at its facility in the Libby Hill Business Park, was awarded $100,000 to reimburse the company for training existing workers and the additional people it anticipates hiring to meet the growing demand for its services as the only U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected poultry slaughterhouse in the state. That designation means its products can be sold outside Maine.

Lost Orchard Brewing was granted $83,168 that it sought to reimburse the costs of training employees in safe food handling, making the company’s hard ciders and handling customers who may become intoxicated at its tasting room in the former Congregational church on Church Street. The company recently won approval from the city to extend the hours for its tasting room to stay open a little later and have the option to offer food and live music to customers.

Central Maine Meats, which has already been awarded $640,000 in both workforce development and economic development funds, secured $690,000 more in economic development funds.

“We’re grateful for the support of the mayor, the city manager and the city council in receiving this grant,” Joel Davis, managing director of Central Maine Meats said. “We’re excited about all our new initiatives in Maine-based agriculture.”

The company has contracts to supply NorthCenter PFG and Sodexo with its meat and to meet growing demand company officials have to hire more workers. Like Common Wealth Poultry, Central Maine Meat’s facility is USDA-inspected, so it can sell its products out of state as well.

“We’ve met and exceeded milestones over the last nearly two years of operations,” Davis said. “We hope to implement new initiatives to create many more jobs coupled with additional training and apprentice programs,” he said.


Sebago Lake Distillery sought and was granted $90,000 to hire staff sooner than it otherwise could.

David Tomer, company president and one of its founders, said the company is inching closer to the approvals it needs before it can start distilling spirits at its facility at 463 Water St.

“We’re still on schedule to start producing in January 2017,” he said.

Under existing regulations, the site must be secured and a still installed before a distillery can start operations. That means the company has to start paying workers long before any product can be made or sold, and these economic development grant funds help bridge that gap.

“We’ll make three hires initially,” Tomer said, and he expects to fill those positions this summer.

Economic development funds are targeted at hiring workers who are low- to moderate-income.


“We have a good team on city staff and on the City Council,” Patrick Wright said. Wright is the executive director of Gardiner Main Street and he also serves as the city’s economic development coordinator. “They get it, and they want to work together. The city doesn’t have the power or ability to create economic development, so it has to be partnership with businesses and the community, and I think the grantmakers recognize that.”

Harnett said the business people who have put their faith in Gardiner deserve credit, too.

“They are creating lasting jobs and training that allows the companies to grow and expands their markets,” he said. “It benefits all of them.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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