PITTSFIELD -- A local maker of organic, freeze-dried dog treats plans to expand its business and hire four new employees.
Whole Life Pet Products has been awarded a $200,400 equipment loan from MassDevelopment to achieve those goals, which will help increase its work force from eight to 12 employees.
The loan is the first of its kind that MassDevelopment, a statewide quasi-public lender and economic development agency, has awarded to a business located in Western Massachusetts, according to spokeswoman Kelsey Abbruzzese.
Whole Life Pet Products owner John Gigliotti said he used the loan to buy a second freeze-drying unit and related equipment.
Founded in 2005, Whole Life Pet Products makes high-quality, natural pet snacks.
The company evolved from a mail-order pet products company that Gigliotti, a native of Cromwell, Conn., founded 17 years ago.
Last September, the manufacturing facility moved from Hawthorne Avenue to East Street, where Gigliotti invested $500,000 to renovate and equip the new 10,000-square-foot plant.
Gigliotti said the five-year loan he obtained from MassDevelopment's "export loan program" provided the tools he needed to expand his business.
"We're here to stay," he said. "We've built our home in Pittsfield, we're bringing manufacturing to Pittsfield, and we looked at different ways of improving with the city. But [MassDevelopment has] a great loan program for equipment. It was just right for us."
According to Abbruzzesse, MassDevelopment's export loan program is geared toward providing financing for businesses that need new equipment and working capital.
"It works well for companies that want to export their services," she said.
The second freeze-drying unit will allow Whole Life Pet Products to fulfill its agreement with Wegmans Food Markets to distribute pet treats in the chain's 79 stores, which are located in six states including Massachusetts.
The company had eight employees at the end of 2011, but has already hired one new worker this year and plans to hire another during the fourth quarter. The company plans to hire two more employees next year, Gigliotti said.
He said his company plans to maintain its relationship with MassDevelopment.
"If we hit our numbers and continue to grow, we're going to need more equipment down the road," Gigliotti said. "We'll have an ongoing need for equipment."
MassDevelopment works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions and communities to stimulate economic growth across the state. The agency financed or managed more than 300 projects that generated $3.8 billion in the state's economy in fiscal 2011.
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