Connor Homes recruiting lenders to reopen Route 7 business
MIDDLEBURY — The former owner of Connor Homes has been meeting this week with potential lenders in hopes of re-acquiring the Route 7 business in Middlebury within the next two weeks.
Mike Connor confirmed on Tuesday he has reached out to the USDA, Vermont Economic Development Authority, Addison County Economic Development Corp. and various banks for advice and/or loans in an effort to forge a deal with Connor Homes’ current ownership, led by investor Sam Pryor.
Connor Homes has been among the largest employers in the county’s manufacturing sector.
Current ownership closed the business — which specializes in colonial reproduction “kit” homes that are assembled in the 115,000-square-foot former home of Standard Register — back on Dec. 30, citing financial reasons.
Sixty-three people were working at Connor Homes at the time it closed.
Mike Connor, who founded the business in 1992, is hoping to get the workforce back on the job by the end of this month. That will require some productive negotiations, Connor acknowledged during a phone interview.
“We just met with Sam Pryor and gave him a proposal, and he wants us to flesh it out some more, which we are going to do tonight,” Connor said at about 6 p.m. on Tuesday. “We have what we think is a proposal that takes care of everybody and gets everybody back to work, maybe as soon as two weeks.”
Connor remains optimistic, given the positive response he reported receiving from prospective lenders at both the state and federal level. He declined to share financial specifics, citing the ongoing negotiations, but he said he wants that information to be known eventually.
“I think it’s important that people see that we’re talking a significant amount of money, but it’s what would work for us, and I think we’ll be able to get the funding for it,” Connor said. “We’ve got a bonding company that I think is very anxious to work with us on this. I think we have something in place that can work.”
Connor hopes to have more definitive news to share within a week.
“Everyone we’ve talked to has been extremely helpful,” he said. “I think they all realize this is a business that needs to stay here in Middlebury. It’s been very encouraging to hear from all of the people who want to help out.”
The Independent contacted Pryor, who declined to speak on the record, saying he didn’t want to jeopardize the flow of negotiations.
It was in 2007 that Connor Homes moved into the former home of Standard Register on Route 7 South. The company moved there in response to growing demand for its products, recently featured on the popular PBS television series “This Old House.”
Connor Homes blossomed from 32 employees in 14,000 square feet off Exchange Street to 70 workers 2012. The company’s workforce has periodically shrunk and expanded in reaction to market forces.
Connor sold 99 percent of his interest in Connor Homes in 2012 to the current group of investors. The group made some significant capital investments in the company, but was apparently not satisfied with its overall performance.
Meanwhile, the company’s 63 employees are anxiously awaiting a green light to return to work.
“A lot of them have been coming in just to see how things are going,” Connor said. “There have been a lot of emails and calls. I’ve been very moved by how supportive they have all been. They really want to stay here; they want their jobs and they deserve their jobs. I’ve gotten so many emails and supportive calls form people around Middlebury — people we have built houses for — who are saying, ‘You guys have got to keep going, we don’t want to lose you.’”
Travis Tindall was a production design worker at Connor when the company closed two weeks ago. He said he has a couple of other job prospects, but would prefer to return to his old job.
“It did surprise everybody,” he said of the owners’ decision to close.
Connor hopes to soon have some good news for Tindall and his colleagues.
“I’m very hopeful we are going to make this work, and I think we will,” Connor said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].