ELLSWORTH — Federal officials announced Tuesday that The Jackson Laboratory will get almost $2 million in grant money to help support build-out costs of its proposed Ellsworth facility.
The $1.82-million grant comes from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), an arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce, according to a news release from that agency.
The lab will match that grant money dollar for dollar, which translates into $3.64 million overall.
The lab intends to build a modern mouse production facility called a vivarium in the former Lowe’s building on Kingsland Crossing on Beckwith Hill.
It applied for $2.1 million in grant funding from the EDA earlier this year. Ellsworth city councilors voiced their support for that application in May, reiterating their belief that the project will be a boon for the city.
The lab said it hopes to construct a “state-of-the-art vivarium” in Ellsworth with an initial capacity of 160,000 mice and room for 640,000 mice after a planned 10-year build-up.
The lab said it needs to build a new facility for mouse production because its current facilities in Bar Harbor and California will reach full capacity by 2018.
“JAX urgently needs next-generation production space to remain competitive and to grow as the world’s leading provider of research mice,” said Mike Hyde, vice president for external affairs and strategic partnerships at the lab.
The new vivarium, according to the lab, is the “key first step” in its long-range plan to move most of its mouse production operation from Bar Harbor to Ellsworth.
That move “will enable the Bar Harbor campus to expand its research and education functions and employment,” the lab said.
The planned Ellsworth facility carries a $75-million price tag. The lab projects 230 new jobs will be created at the vivarium over 10 years. An additional 135 new jobs would be created in Bar Harbor during that same time period.
The EDA grant money will go toward site work and utility upgrades at the former Lowe’s building. The lab took ownership of the former big-box home improvement store in the fall of 2012.
Hyde said the grant “will help us complete the initial structural remodeling” of the building and “moves us one step closer” to the start of the project.
Ellsworth City Manager David Cole said Tuesday that the awarding of the grant is “great news.” While the money is going to the lab, he said it will end up benefiting Ellsworth as a whole.
“The investment is being made in the community,” he said. “So in the end, it’s a win-win for everybody.”