LEWISTON — After 15 years downtown, Outsource Works, the company that gave piecework to hundreds of sometimes hard-to-employ workers over the years, is closing.
Its roster was down to 10 employees and 23 to 27 pieceworkers, according to board president Mary Lou Hofmann.
The economy got to them. Customers started doing more work in-house to keep their own staff busy, she said. Some key staff left and hoped-for funding didn't come through.
"We just kind of came to the point that, given the confluence of all those things," it was time, she said. "It's a function of a challenging business model to begin with, it's a function of challenging economic times. Sometimes things run their course."
The board began winding down the nonprofit in June. Its last day is July 31.
Outsource Works specialized in hiring people with unconventional hours or less-than-ideal work histories and paying them per-piece to assemble and pack. They also offered workers classes to help earn their GEDs. It was originally known as Faithworks when it opened in 1997.
"There are a lot of people now who will not have the option of flexible employment," Hofmann said. "Those opportunities to move themselves ahead, it's going to be more challenging for them. We're sorry for that."
In recent months, some people have been hired by the companies they used to do work for via Outsource Works.
Hofmann said the business generated 90 percent of its own revenue but did rely on some outside sources.
After receiving Community Development Block Grant funds through the city for the last few years, in May Outsource Works learned that it narrowly missed funding this year. A citizen committee using competitive scoring recommends a list of recipients to the City Council, said Lincoln Jeffers, Lewiston's economic and community development director.
This year Outsource Works applied for $40,000 and scored a 75. The lowest score to receive funding: 76.
"The committee had a tough decision," Jeffers said.
Hofmann has been on the Outsource Works board for 10 years. Its space at the Hill Mill is leased. Should someone try a similar effort again, she said there are tweaks to be made and lessons to take away.
"I recognize that it's challenging times for everyone, but Outsource Works was doing what everyone in the state says needs to be done — moving people forward with less public assistance," she said.