April 9, 2007
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Local business leaders were ecstatic with last week’s news that a local manufacturing company, Connor Homes, had submitted the winning bid to acquire and occupy the former Standard Register property on Route 7 South.
Connor Homes, known until recently as Connor Building Co., could occupy the 115,000-square-foot Standard Register building as soon as this summer. The company has long-since outgrown its 14,000-square-foot space off Exchange Street. Connor Homes President Michael Connor said he had considered erecting a building of his own in the Exchange Street area. But his focus shifted when people within the local business community suggested that he take a look at the former Standard Register facility.
“At first we thought it was too big,” Connor said. “But the more we looked at it, the more it made sense.”
While Connor Homes may rent some storage space in its cavernous new home, Connor expects the business will eventually occupy the entire building.
Connor Homes manufactures pre-engineered, pre-built reproduction early-American homes. The company is currently building homes at a clip of 50 per year, with the prospect of manufacturing more than 120 homes annually within three years, according to Connor. The company also figures to boost its workforce from 32 to more than 90 employees within the next three years — not quite as many jobs as the 112 that were let go when Standard Register ceased operations last month, but close.
Jamie Stewart, executive director of the Addison County Economic Development Corp. (ACEDC), noted the new Connor Home jobs will have good salaries and benefits — comparable to the Standard Register jobs that were lost.
“We know that this facility will continue as a manufacturing facility and that it will provide good quality jobs,” Stewart said.
He credited Standard Register officials for selecting Connor Homes, even though the company apparently did not submit the highest bid. Some of the other bids involved housing and/or retail projects. But Stewart said Standard Register went with Connor knowing the company would maintain solid manufacturing jobs at the site.
“(Standard Register) was really a partner with the community,” Stewart said of the selection process. “That meant a lot.”
Standard Register officials offered few details about the sales agreement.
“Standard Register has accepted an offer from Connor Homes, a local business that is expanding and in need of a larger facility,” spokeswoman Lesley A. Sprigg wrote in a brief statement. “Purchase price and terms of the sale will not be disclosed. We are working on a mutually acceptable sale agreement with an anticipated closing in 60 to 90 days.”
The purchase price will become public when property transfer forms are registered at the Middlebury town clerk’s office. The Standard Register property, which includes 20 acres, is currently assessed by the town at $4,115,700.
Connor Homes’ impending acquisition of the Standard Register property is the second dose of good news for a Middlebury manufacturing economy since two companies — Standard Register and Specialty Filaments — announced in January they were closing their doors. The first bit of good news came two months ago, when Illinois-based Thomas Monahan Co. purchased Specialty Filaments and fired the Case Street plastic bristle-making plant back up.
Stewart said he believes many former Standard Register workers have been successful in finding work with other companies in and around Addison County. The county recently hosted a job fair at which several firms recruited former Standard Register employees — a tribute to their experience and work ethic, according to Stewart.
Still, Stewart acknowledged the need make more progress on the jobs front.
“We know there is still significant work to be done,” Stewart said.