$1.7M in Houlton grant funding uncertain after tiny home firm’s relocation

2 months ago

HOULTON, Maine — Tiny Homes of Maine left its Houlton location following a devastating fire last fall, leaving the status of $1.7 million in grant funding the town acquired on its behalf uncertain.

In a letter sent to the Houlton Town Council last week, Houlton Director of Community and Economic Development Nancy Ketch said that a $250,000 community development block grant the town secured for Tiny Homes of Maine has already been returned, but the town is trying to hold on to the rest of the money.

The remaining grant funds are administered by the Northern Maine Development Commission. The two grants were awarded to the Shiretown Development Corp., a company run by town officials. Ketch said that she is exploring the next steps with the commission.  

The town had been working with the tiny home manufacturer for several years to secure funding to for a 12,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that would have cost nearly $1.9 million at its Houlton International Airport location. 

Last spring, Ketch was confident that the final funding piece for the expansion was secured with the Northern Border Regional Commission funding. The Northern Border Regional Commission is a federal and state partnership, created in 2008, to encourage private sector job creation in Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

Tiny Homes of Maine CEO Corinne Watson who co-owns the business with her husband Tom Small, said that their previous manufacturing facility in an old unheated airplane hangar at the Houlton International Airport made production difficult during Maine winters. 

Despite the grant funding, they had been looking for a new location prior to the fire. After finding a space in Dyer Brook, they had originally planned it as a temporary move. Without the Dyer Brook location already lined up, Watson said after the fire they would have been out of business forever with winter coming.

“We had grant funding to have a new facility built in Houlton, but it was just dragging out and taking forever and didn’t seem like it was going to happen. We found a place and we were trying to get everything in order to move,” Watson said. 

The tiny home manufacturer decided to stay in Dyer Brook and resettled in an 11,000-square foot building, about 22 miles from its previous location.

Ketch said that the town still owns the airport building that was destroyed by the fire. They are attempting to obtain approval from the Economic Development Administration and the Northern Border Regional Commission for a local project. 

“We are currently working on compiling some information the funders need,” she said.