Jim Kinney, The Republican
EAST LONGMEADOW - When a Waltham-based manufacturer of environmentally efficient modular homes and room additions started to outgrow its small factory just off Interstate 495 in Littleton, it found exactly what it was looking for in a vacant former Pratt & Whitney airplane factory in East Longmeadow.
“It is a fantastic space for us,” said Blu Homes president William M. Haney, a high-tech entrepreneur who founded Blu Homes with venture capitalist Maura G. McCarthy in 2007.
Next week the first three modular Blu Homes buildings will come off the East Longmeadow assembly line, hoisted by a giant overhead crane onto a waiting truck. Monday, Haney and McCarthy hosted a ceremonial ribbon cutting for U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, within the cavernous 80,000 square-foot factory at 330 Chestnut Street near Lenox American Saw. Besides hosting Pratt & Whitney , it was once home to a packaging machinery company and to a Hasbro warehouse.
Blu Homes has been in the space for about two months, Haney said.
“But the building was less important than the workers we found here, with the skill sets we needed,” Haney said.
Neal said Western Massachusetts has an opportunity if it can go after Boston-area startups looking for space, and people , to expand.
“Western Massachusetts has traditionally had a lower cost of doing business,” Neal said.
McCarthy said the company has 35 employees, up from about four a year ago. Of those 35 employees, 15 are in production at the East Longmeadow facility. They earn from $15 to $55 an hour depending on their skill set.
Skills include carpentry, plumbing, heating and electrical and steel fabrication, said Trevor L. Huffard, vice president of operations.
“We could have 150 here in a year if we continue to expand,” Huffard said.
Blu Homes are “green” because less waste is generated in their construction. They are also well-insulated and have efficient heating plants along with windows that can be placed for optimal passive solar heating. Huffard said their steel frames allow Blu Homes to fold out once they are on site so their interiors are more open and airy.
Haney said his idea was to marry modular homes with interactive Internet technology. Blu Homes allows people to design their homes or room additions online. The homes are based on work done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Rhode Island School of Design.”
“Push a button and we build it for you and ship it anywhere in the country,” he said.
One-level room additions start at $64,000 while the largest of two-floor homes the company sells starts at $260,000.
Huffard said the cost to consumers averages about $160 a square foot.
Haney said they’ve built 13 homes and rooms so far and have 20 sold. Among the projects they built were sets for “Lopez Tonight,” comedian George Lopez’s TBS late-night show.