AUGUSTA — Cathy DeMerchant, co-owner and a founder of Capital Area Staffing Solutions, can’t imagine a better job than one that involves helping people in the community find jobs, by helping people who run businesses find workers.

“What better job than helping people with their livelihoods?” said DeMerchant, leader of Capital Area Staffing Solutions, winner of Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year Award. “We really care about our placements, we want to see people succeed in their careers, both our clients and our field employees.”

The staffing firm with offices in Augusta and Bangor works to find employees for its business clients.

In the past most of those jobs were temporary in nature, as businesses sought workers for short-term projects or to fill gaps caused by employee absences. But the firm is seeing a growing trend, especially in today’s tight labor market, of businesses hiring workers through Capital Area Staffing Solutions who become permanent employees for the business.

“Now, really, our bread and butter that has been growing over the last several years, and where we’ve found a real niche, is clients are hiring our people on a permanent basis,” said DeMerchant, who lives in Vassalboro with her husband, John.

Katie Doherty, president and chief executive officer of Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the staffing firm fills a crucial role, that benefits both its clients looking for workers, and workers looking for jobs.

“As a staffing agency, they’re a small business but they’re mighty,” Doherty said of Capital Area Staffing Solutions. “In all the businesses they are helping staff with great employees, they’ve made a great impact in the Kennebec Valley, with their revenue growth and job creation.”

DeMerchant said the award came as a surprise. She said she’s deeply honored and humbled to see the firm be recognized, especially given the accomplishments of the other award winners, such as Norm Elvin and LaJoie Brothers, taking home chamber awards this year.

The staffing firm’s Augusta office is staffed by DeMerchant and Dawn True, branch manager who joined the company in 2005, and its office in Bangor by Nettie Kilby, branch manager who started with the company in 2011, and Carolyn Hayden, staffing specialist, who has worked for the firm for just over a year.

“The team I have in place is amazing we all work together and that absolute teamwork has lead to this success,” DeMerchant said. “And part of the success is because the community really trusted us and gave us their full support when we started this new venture. That was key.”

DeMerchant and her two silent partners in the business, Edward Moran and Peter Dunn Jr., opened the business in Augusta in 2003, adding the Bangor branch office in 2011.

DeMerchant said she and the firm’s other team members are very connected in the community, volunteering to serve on nonprofit and other boards in the area. She, herself, is president of the board of directors of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, vice chairwoman of the Board of Overseers of the Bar, and has worked on other boards including MaineGeneral Health, Augusta Board of Trade, and the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce. She said it can be hard to find time for those activities but said she feels if you’ve been given an opportunity, you have an obligation to give back.

She has three adult sons, one grandchild, and loves to hunt and fish.

And she also finds her own career, helping others in their careers, gratifying.

“When you help someone find a career, it’s very satisfying work, as it is helping our clients find the right fit and making their jobs easier,” she said.

Doherty said the small business of the year award goes to a chamber member in business for at least four years which employs nine or fewer people, that has demonstrated revenue growth and job creation, and is recognized for excellence in its industry due to innovation, customer service, staff development and marketing.

The chamber will honor the business, and other award winners in the chamber’s annual award program, called the Kenney Awards, Jan. 26 at the Augusta Civic Center.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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