UTEC Woodworking is getting the state of the art facility that our young adults deserve to learn and grow.
We believe environment dictates behavior. This upgraded woodshop will motivate young adults to think bigger about what they can achieve, diversify the skills we are able to teach them, and it will triple the number of jobs available for young people coming out of incarceration and gang involvement in the Merrimack Valley
The total cost includes acquisition, Phase 1, and Phase 2 renovations.
Total Fundraising Goal: $4.1M
Background on growth plans
UTEC’s bold goal is to guarantee a job and a pathway to social and economic success for every young adult returning from incarceration to the Merrimack Valley (in the primary cities of Lowell, Lawrence and now Haverhill). To do so, we will need to expand the scope and capacity of our current mission-minded businesses. An expanded physical facility for the Woodworking social enterprise will be transformative to the organization. It will provide additional job training slots and create a higher tier of skills development aligned with advanced manufacturing workforce needs in the region. It will also provide the space and capacity to dramatically expand the number and diversity of products made by our young adults.
Woodworking Operations and Products
The UTEC Woodworking social enterprise makes a small suite of products for both retail and wholesale customers. We are now in the process of expanding our range of skills training options, particularly for laser cutting and computer-numeric control (CNC) machinery. CNC machinery is used in a wide range of wood, plastic, and metal advanced manufacturing techniques, so it offers a major skill set for young adults’ increased employability.
UTEC cutting boards and salad tongs are currently sold in over 25 Whole Foods Markets stores from Connecticut to Maine, in addition to several local retailers in the greater Lowell and Boston areas. We also build display stands for various Whole Foods stores throughout the region. Additionally, we have sold hundreds of coffee tables to universities such as Harvard and Northeastern that were purchased for their dormitories. And most recently, we have provided a customized wood block salad station that is featured in Encore Boston Harbor’s buffet restaurant.
In fall 2018, we launched our new brand name for all our social enterprise products, Madd Love Market, as featured in the Boston Globe. We now offer direct Madd Love Market product sales through UTEC’s own website, with e-commerce functionality, which allows us an immediate direct-to-consumer testing opportunity for future Woodworking products.
Woodworking Facility Needs
Our capital needs center upon the purchase of a larger space to accommodate training and instruction, manufacturing, distribution, product finishing, and storage needs. Once this is achieved, we will launch the design of new products in addition to our current suite of products. For example, as part of our effort to integrate a two-generational approach across all areas, we are currently prototyping handcrafted and customized wooden toy block sets. With a larger facility, we will also be able to meet increased demand for our high-end cutting boards currently sold in Whole Foods Market stores given that UTEC was recently named the WFM North Atlantic Region’s Supplier of the Year (out of over 2,000 suppliers).
This historic building is located in the heart of downtown Lowell and only a few minutes’ walk from UTEC’s main headquarters. It was previously used as an auto parts store for decades. This site has 2 adjoining buildings that total 28,500 square feet (70 Church Street has 2 levels, and 80 Church Street has 3 levels). It provides space for: production and manufacturing, classroom teaching, shipping/receiving, and storefront retail space for sales of all UTEC social enterprise goods. It truly is a unique building given its downtown location and UTEC’s needs.
Project Timeline and Logistics
UTEC signed a lease-to-purchase agreement with the current owner of 70-80 Church Street in early December 2019. UTEC plans to make lease payments to the current owner until remediation is complete, and then exercise its option to purchase the property.
Upon signing the agreement, UTEC will immediately move machinery into the building at 70 Church St. and begin the Phase 1 renovatio scope that will provide occupancy for 70 Church St. It will begin woodworking operations within 3-4 months after starting the renovation. During this same period, UTEC will work with our architect to complete drawings for the full rehab of 80 Church St.