WILTON — For the last two years, Nathan Carrier has worked 100-hour weeks (or 26-hour days as he’d joke) to grow his business, Carrier Welding and Fabrication in Wilton, working by turns as salesman, bookkeeper, welder, receptionist, CEO and laborer.

The effort has paid off as Carrier, 29, of Dixfield, earned a reputation throughout Maine, New England and as far as California for quality work and a skill set that qualifies him for a wide array of welding and fabrication projects from part manufacturing to oil pipeline installations. In fact, his growing business has left Carrier with more work than he’s been able to handle. In the first quarter of this year, Carrier said he had to turn down a $100,000 contract for lack of equipment.

But that may change as the Wilton Select Board voted unanimously Tuesday to submit a $240,000 Community Development Block Grant application to the state on Carrier’s behalf. If awarded, Carrier would purchase $110,000 in equipment and bring on eight additional employees in the next year with salaries ranging from $24,960 to $55,000 plus benefits.

Carrier spent the last eight years traveling the country honing his skills and contacts. Wanting to spend more time at home with his wife and three children, he purchased a building last June on Depot Street in Wilton where he could set up his own shop. He has spent his time since working and renovating the building, getting it set up to fulfill his vision of a larger operation.

With the new employees — a salesman, office manager, welders, laborers and painter — Carrier believes he can quickly expand his business and bring in 10 times what he is currently earning on his own. It’s not uncommon in his industry, Carrier said, for a business with eight to 10 employees to bring in between $5 million and $6 million a year. Even larger companies with lower margins can expect to bring in between $300,000 and $400,000 in sales per employee, Carrier said.

“The sky’s the limit,” Carrier said in an interview Tuesday. “Growth is not something I’m afraid of as long as it’s healthy.”

The grant Carrier hopes to utilize is part of a $3 billion federal program overseen by the department of Housing and Urban Development. Each year, HUD distributes block grants to states and large urban areas to be used to benefit low- to moderate-income people, aid in the prevention and elimination of so-called slums or blight, or meet an urgent need posing a serious and immediate threat to the health and welfare of a community. Grants fall under categories like housing assistance, downtown revitalization, public infrastructure and small business development, among others.

The state of Maine has received more then $500 million in block grants since 1982, not including funding directly funneled to more densely populated areas such as Cumberland County, Lewiston and Bangor. In the same timeframe, the town of Wilton has received more than $3.5 million in block grant funding for sewer and water installations, its ongoing downtown revitalization efforts, removal of slum and blight and other projects.

The program is currently under threat as the Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposal seeks to eliminate it in its entirety. While the Obama administration proposed decreasing CDBG funding from $3 billion to $2.8 billion for the 2017 fiscal year, the Trump administration argued in its 2018 budget proposal that the money could be better spent.

“The Federal Government has spent over $150 billion on this block grant since its inception in 1974, but the program is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results,” the Trump administration budget reads.

But in practice, block grants are used for more than direct funding. They also serve as what Darryl Sterling, an economic and community development specialist who worked with Wilton and Carrier on their application, described as “multipliers,” requiring and attracting matching funds that towns and businesses can use to fill their funding gaps.

Using the CDBG grant application, Carrier has been able to leverage an additional $275,000 in loans and investments. With those funds Carrier said he can purchase another $100,000 in equipment and use $175,000 to finish upgrading his building to accommodate the new equipment and expanding workforce. Once the equipment is in place, Carrier said his shop will rival any in Western Maine and rank among three or four in the state with similar capacity.

“It puts us in a really good, competitive-edge point where a lot of your local shops are nowhere near the equipment capacity we will have,” Carrier said. “So a lot of your shops, even local, would come to us for certain services that they don’t offer.”

Carrier’s application is due later this month. He expects to hear in July if he has been awarded the requested funds. In the event the grant does not go through, Carrier may be better positioned than some businesses. He has already discussed funding options with one of his lenders who expressed willingness to provide him with additional operating capital.

“We have a back-up plan just in case,” Carrier said.

Kate McCormick — 861-9218

[email protected]

Twitter: @KateRMcCormick

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