Wilton, Maine

Wilton, a small town of about 4,200 people, lies within Franklin County, Maine. GH Bass began manufacturing shoes in Wilton in the late 1800s. In 1904, the company moved into its new Mill #1 on Wilson Stream, the outlet of Wilson Lake, and, as the company grew, it added structural expansions in 1912 and 1922, bringing the total at the facility today to 48,000 square feet. In 1957, Bass expanded operations into a newly constructed 21,000-square-foot plant on Weld Road, which over a period of 22 years grew to be a 291,000-square-foot facility. In 1998, GH Bass moved its shoe manufacturing operations overseas and closed the plant on Wilson Stream. The Weld Road facility remained open as a distribution center until April of this year. At the time of closing, it was owned by the Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation.

The Nichols-Bass Building
The Bass-Wilson Building, formerly Mill #1, is now owned by Cousineau Properties. This building overlooks Wilson Lake and is surrounded by mountains and downtown Wilton.

The property boasts a diverse tenant mix featuring technology firms that provide state-of-the-art medical transcription services and the development of healthcare software, as well as fine dining restaurants and community services providers. In 1998, the town of Wilton pursued and was awarded a Community Development Block Grant to provide additional parking necessary for a professional building. Cousineau Properties with the assistance of Curtis Walter Steward Architects of Portland, Maine, has developed this historic building into spectacular upscale professional space.

The GH Bass property, now known as The Nichols-Bass Business & Technology Center, is currently owned by Nichols Development LLC. The Nichols-Bass building is 291,000 square feet located on 31 acres. A welder, an equipment salesman and two local businessmen have formed a unique partnership, Nichols Development LLC, to bring manufacturing jobs and businesses to their western Maine community.

The owners are all local people with the same goal: to turn the 291,000 square feet into a hub of business activity that will create good jobs for a region that has been hard hit by factory and mill closings in the past decade. Current tenants include a call center and a custom trailer manufacturer.

The dream extends to filling the facility with businesses that complement each other so they can form buying cooperatives to reduce costs and to develop the only central shipping and receiving hub in the region.

Franklin County is 21 communities strong and, like the town of Wilton, every community offers its own unique character and sense of place.

Alison A. Hagerstrom, Executive Director, Greater Franklin Development Corporation

©2004 France Publications, Inc. Duplication or reproduction of this article not permitted without authorization from France Publications, Inc. For information on reprints of this article contact Barbara Sherer at (630) 554-6054.

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