LEWISTON – You could say that the relationship between Kurt Ellis and Scott Owings is, well, fulfilling.

That’s because the two Hill Mill neighbors oversee separate businesses that have found a way to help each other out.

For Owings, manager of Outsource Works, a nonprofit product assembly company, the association has meant steady work for his 50 employees. The successor to Faithworks, Outsource Works employs people who have trouble fitting into conventional jobs. His folks work when they please, earning an average of $8 per hour for piecework.

Next door, Ellis’ Great Lakes Fulfillment picks, packs and ships hundreds of orders for clients every day. His 17 workers fill orders for customers as diverse as Nordstrom’s and Lamey Wellehan.

“If we have a large order to fill, rather than having the staff work overtime, or hire additional part-time staff, we use the resources in the facility,” said Ellis, who started Great Lakes six years ago. “They do a very good job.”

Early last week, Outsource Works employees were folding inserts into brochures that were going to some Great Lakes clients. Later, they were assembling sample kits for a vitamin company for their neighbor.

“We do a lot of work for them because they aren’t set up to do hand work,” Owings said. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Ellis started Great Lakes Fulfillment after working for an international delivery service and observing ways companies could get their products to clients faster. He brought that expertise to a private marketing company. Within his first year, he saved the company $1.3 million.

“After setting up that operation, I said to myself, ‘Why am making money for other people?” he said with a laugh.

When he started Great Lakes he was the lone employee with 1,500 square feet at the Hill Mill. Now he and his stable staff (no employee has ever left) use 56,000 square feet, storing inventory for their many clients so orders can be expedited.

“When I started, we were filling 50 orders a day,” he said. “Now we do between 2,500 and 3,000 a day.”

He said by having Outsource Works nearby, he has the flexibility to handle orders faster than many competitors.

“We’re all about creating cost efficiencies,” he said. “I tell people ‘Send me a contract and I guarantee we can beat it’.”

He intends to keep the business growing, glad that there’s more space at the mill where he already occupies sections on the first, fifth and seventh floors. Ellis said he expects to hire about 10 people by the second quarter of 2009 to expand their customer service facility.

“I firmly believe if you treat clients well, they’ll be customers for life,” he said.


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