Category Archives: Maine Employment

Granola Empire In Rural Maine Anticipates 33 Percent Growth In 2019

Aaron Anker (left) and Nat Peirce, owners of Grandyoats, stand in front of solar panels powering their granola company in Hiram, Maine.
Aaron Anker (left) and Nat Peirce, owners of Grandyoats, stand in front of solar panels powering their granola company in Hiram, Maine.

Aaron Anker and Nat Peirce, co-owners of Grandyoats, are anticipating startup-like growth next year for their 40-year-old granola company, based in rural Maine.

Over the past two years the company has grown by 33 percent, according to Anker, but in 2019 alone, Grandyoats will grow another 33 percent, Anker says.

Grandyoats doesn’t share revenue numbers, but Anker says they produce 2 million pounds of organic granola trail mix annually in the converted elementary school in Hiram, Maine, where the company is located.

So that means if all goes according to plan, Grandyoats will produce 2.6 million pounds of granola in 2019, distributed nationwide to independent and chain natural food stores, conventional grocery stores and more than 80 universities, including the University of Maine in Orono, Maine. The company also sells online, direct to customers.

Driving this growth is a new granola called Coconola, a grain-free mixture featuring coconut. Anker says it’s “flying off the shelves.”

Coconola on the pan. Granola Maine Production
Coconola on the pan. Granola Maine Production

“People are wising up,” Anker said. “They want less sugar, more nutrients and 100 percent organic ingredients. We’re hitting those markers and consumers are rewarding us.”

Nat Peirce bought Grandyoats from the two women, Sarah Carpenter and Penny Hood, who founded the company in 1979 in Skowhegan, Maine, and ran it for 19 years.

“They purposely kept it small as a secondary source of income for themselves, and also as an opportunity to get together with a handful of their friends and make a great product, while also talking about politics, about their kids and what was going on in their lives,” Peirce said. “It was a social event.”

Peirce was running a small retail bakery and café in Bridgton, Maine, when he connected with Carpenter and Hood through a mutual friend, and agreed to buy Grandyoats. The timing was perfect. Peirce was looking for opportunities to get into wholesale sales, and the Grandyoats founders were looking to pass the torch.

“This sounds right, let’s do this,” Peirce remembers saying at the time. “We shook hands and that was the start of the transition.”

It was March 1997. Three years later, in 2000, Peirce connected with college friend Aaron Anker. He knew Anker had experience in sales and marketing, working for a juice company called Fresh Samantha that grew from $8 million in sales to $38 million in sales in two years, eventually merging with Odwalla and ultimately selling to Coca-Cola.

Based on his experience with Fresh Samantha, Anker was thinking about starting a consulting business, taking Maine brands national, and was interested in Grandyoats. Peirce suggested joining the company as co-owner instead.

The partners bought the vacant elementary school in Hiram, population 1,619, for $175,000 two and a half years ago. They got 420 feet of frontage on the Saco River as part of the deal.

“It’s real nice in the summer to have lunch and then jump in,” Peirce said.

They also got eight and a half acres of level playing fields where they installed 288 solar panels to provide the electricity they and their 30 employees need to crank out Coconola and the company’s other brands of granola. Grandyoats, by the way, is the largest employer in Hiram.

At first, the solar panels were providing all the power Grandyoats needed. But with their explosive growth, they fell a little short last year, generating about 90 percent of the power they needed. The partners bought wind credits to make up the difference so their company remained 100 percent powered by renewable energy.

“We’re not a massive company, but we’re big enough to make a difference,” Peirce said.

Forbes – [source]

Newcomers necessary to ensure Maine’s best days lie ahead

Maine must open doors to immigration.
Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr/Creative Commons license 2.0 |

Maine often looks to New Hampshire for inspiration. The Granite State’s lack of sales and income taxes is frequent fodder for political and economic development debates in Augusta. But population was one area in which Maine long had the upper hand. For more than two centuries, more people lived in Maine than New Hampshire.

No more, according to new census data. The latest figures show New Hampshire with about 1,280 more people than Maine.

While this development has gotten a lot of attention, the long-term trend of Maine’s population stagnation is what is truly alarming. For the last five years, Maine’s population has barely budged. New Hampshire’s grew a little.

The real story is what has happened in the rest of the country, especially the southwest and west, as Maine largely stood still.

Since 1890, the population of California has grown 270 percent; Washington’s population has grown by more than 200 percent. Utah has grown 335 percent. Maine has grown just 45 percent.

Not only is Maine’s population not growing, Maine is the oldest state in the nation. This is especially problematic for economic development. More than half of Maine’s workforce will reach retirement age in the next 20 years. The economy will require more than 400,000 workers just to replace the retirees. But only 300,000 Mainers are currently under the age of 20. That’s the group expected to replace those aging out of the workforce. By simple math, that means Maine is already 100,000 workers short of filling a looming workforce gap.

Maine needs more people, especially younger, working-age people.

“Without positive natural change, Maine will depend on net in-migration to maintain our population and workforce,” the Maine Department of Labor wrote in its report “ Maine Workforce Outlook 2012-2022.” “In the recent recovery, net-migration to and from Maine has remained near zero. That trend must be reversed to maintain the size of our workforce.”

This phenomenon was well chronicled in the BDN’s recent three-part series on growing the state’s economy. The first installment highlighted the need to grow Maine’s workforce by attracting immigrants, both from other parts of the world and the country.

Many readers objected to this conclusion, arguing that Maine needs to focus on taking care of its own people; the state can’t afford more immigrants, many argued. The desire to help locals is understandable, but Maine can — and must — continue to do this while welcoming newcomers, too. In fact, attracting newcomers will ultimately help those who already live here.

An aging, shrinking workforce can’t draw businesses to Maine, and it limits the growth of businesses that are already here and trying to grow. To draw businesses and jobs and help Maine businesses flourish, the state needs more people. Since they aren’t being born here, they must come from somewhere else.

Two-thirds of those living in Maine were born in the state. Most of the rest moved here from other states; only 4 percent were born in other countries.

Those living in Maine who weren’t born here have more education — an asset Maine needs in its newcomers. Forty percent of Maine’s residents who weren’t born in the state have a bachelor’s degree, twice the rate of natives, according to a New York Times analysis of state-to-state migration. More than 50 percent of immigrants in Maine have a bachelor’s degree. And immigrants are much younger — 27 on average — than the state’s overall population.

If you are a pessimist, it is easy to believe that Maine’s best days are behind it. But with a more welcoming attitude, Maine can grow and thrive in coming years.

source: BDN