WILTON – Richard Lafrance grinned as he told the crowd of 100 or more assembled to celebrate the grand opening of the new Comfort Inn & Suites that he “was really pleased to be here.”
He grinned more when he said, “We have been welcomed.” He explained that from the very start, several members of the community had met with him, took him out to dinner, and even gave him a book on Maine to take back home to Westport, Mass. Everyone, it seemed, worked in concert to entice Lafrance Hospitality, LLC, to build a Comfort Inn here.
And, it worked.
The Lafrance Comfort Inn, their first built in Maine, is a $6 million facility positioned on a 25-acre parcel of land on Routes 2&4 near the Farmington town line and Franklin Memorial Hospital. It houses 86 rooms, nearly doubling the number of hotel rooms in southern Franklin County.
The fact that everyone worked together, said John Richardson, the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner, was the key to success here.
“It’s the old Maine way of everyone working together,” Richardson said. “They came together as a team and it made the difference. They all share in the success.”
Alison Hagerstrom, executive director of the Greater Franklin Development Corporation was grinning too. It was four and half years ago that her project to get a major hotel to come to the area began. The search ended when Lafrance arrived and the meetings began. It was a good fit for this area, she noted.
“I’m on cloud nine,” she said of the grand opening. “I’m just beaming.”
When the Comfort Inn opened on June 5, 25 people found new employment after more than 300 hopefuls showed up at the Wilton CareerCenter on April 17 to apply for a job.
Fenwick Fowler, executive director of the Western Maine Community Action noted that it was thanks to the CareerCenter’s Patty Ladd, Charlene Jarest, and Comfort Inn manager Rick Martin, that everyone who came to apply was given a chance.
“They stayed later, until 7 at night, to give everyone an opportunity,” Fowler said. State Rep. Tom Saviello noted that the Lafrance family kept their promise of hiring at least 50 percent of its work force from the town of Wilton.
Once the ribbon was cut by Hagerstrom and Sean Lafrance, who is the company’s director of hotel development, a donation of $200 plus the dollars strung to make the “ribbon” were given to WMCA.