Granola maker gets worker training grant

Money will create 2 new jobs, too

Greenfield granola maker New England Natural Bakers has been awarded a $81,395 grant from the state to train 36 of its nearly 50 employees and to create two more positions at the 36-year-old business.

Part of the training, said founding general manager John Broucek, involves working with a specialist from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership to see how to make better use of the 28,500-square-foot space at its Fairview Street factory, which he said is feeling squeezed for space because of what he said has been “stronger growth than we’ve seen in years.

The bakery, which moved to Greenfield from Whately in 2002, also has roughly 5,000 square feet of warehouse space at the Turners Falls Industrial Park.

Another part of the training is geared to production workers and manufacturing engineering employees in electronic troubleshooting and “lean manufacturing” skills they had begun learning through a $10,500 grant in 2011: identifying waste and non-productive time, removing waste from processes, and sharpening problem-solving and communication skills.

The company, which became 100 percent worker-owned Jan. 1 through an Employee Stock Option Program, has been having what Broucek called “an excellent year,” with a new line of packaged bite-sized granola clusters for sale in a new marketing arena, convenience stores, as well as its organic and all-natural granola varieties and trail mixes.

The $5.7 million in workforce training grants announced Thursday by the Patrick administration also included $71,750 to NEX Performance Films, formerly New England Extrusion, of Turners Falls.

But according to Plant Manager David Wolfram, the company is not sure whether to accept the funds, which were to be used to train 56 of the company’s 76 employees, because NEX has since merged with Wisconsin-based Charter Films, becoming Charter NEX Films.

Wolfram said the business, which manufactures blown films for food industry and medical applications, will be looking at how the workforce training program fits into its plans for the future, which he said may include plant expansion in the future.

The workforce training grants from the Executive Office of Workforce Training and Development are for up to two years, serve as a resource for businesses to increase the skill set of their incumbent employees and provide valuable training to the workers, according to the state agency.

You can reach Richie Davis at:
rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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