OXFORD — Chris Hester's office, at Grover Gundrilling's new Oxford facility, still has that new building smell.
Workers are putting the finishing touches on several other offices in the 50,000-square-foot former warehouse at 59 Industrial Way in Oxford.
Hester, Grover Gundrilling's president, said the company has been shifting equipment and staff to the new facility for the past three weekends and has already started work there.
The company's expansion coincides with its partnership with Prime Natural Resources, an investment firm based in Houston, Texas.
According to Hester, about six months ago, Prime bought a majority share in Grover Gundrilling, providing capital for the expansion.
According to its website, Prime's investment portfolio include companies that manufacture oil and natural gas equipment and precision instruments, as well as shares in northern Iraq energy interests and a Colombian palm oil plantation.
Hester calls the partnership a "private equity recapitalization."
Hester is quick to allay fears that outside ownership will compromise the company's dedication to the Oxford Hills community.
If anything, he is confident the new partnership will enable the company's growth.
Prime CEO Jan Veldwijk said the company was impressed with Grover Gundrilling, both in terms of management and finished product.
The company is already invested in other machining businesses that are clients of Grover Gundrilling – the company had lots of work and Prime could move more work to the company Veldwijk said.
Prime's capital allowed Grover to launch the Oxford expansion much faster than it might have.
"We just helped them grow faster," Veldwijk says. Prime will not interfere in day-to-day operations, Veldwijk said. Both he and Hester are adamant that Prime's investment is only helping Grover grow, not putting its future in Oxford Hills in jeopardy.
"The last thing we will do is risk losing anybody there or destabilizing it," Veldwijk said. "We think it's a great company."
The company's expansion will not lead to shuttering its current locations in Norway, Hester said. The company needs to expand to keep up with its clients' needs.
"Basically, what it comes down to for us is we've been hearing from our customers that they wish there were more ways they could work with us," Hester explained.
The Oxford location was perfect for the company, Hester said. It was important to remain local and have a space it could rapidly renovate to suit its needs.
"We can come in, invest capital and get to the business of hiring people and serving our customers as quickly as possible."
Hester said 30,000 square feet were renovated, adding office space, production flooring and employee amenities, as well as landscaping and paving.
The company's skilled workforce made choosing a local facility doubly important, Hester said.
Grover Gundrilling has invested considerably in its existing employees and moving operations too far out of the area would have put it at a disadvantage, Hester said.
It also allows the company to bring on more people. Hester estimates 35 new positions will be created because of the expansion, adding to 100 existing employees.
Those jobs won't all be created at once, he said. Positions will be filled as the company moves forward with its five-year plan.
"I think we have enough space to achieve what we're trying to accomplish in the next few years," Hester said, but he doesn't dismiss the possibility Grover Gundrilling might need even more space down the road.
Hester won't discuss how much the expansion cost, but said it was a "significant investment" that demonstrates the company's commitment to the community.
"Grover Gundrilling is associated with the Oxford Hills," Hester said. "This is our home, this is our company's home."
Even with financing from an outside investor, Grover Gundrilling's aim is to keep growing and keep that growth in Oxford Hills, he said.
"It's important for people to understand that we're committed to these communities, that business is good and we're able to keep giving back to the communities that helped get us here."