LANCASTER — Faced with a regional housing shortage, PAK Solutions LLC did something unique.
They bought their own.
The company has acquired two Main Street buildings in order to increase workforce housing in the community.
They will offer up to a dozen apartments, with plans for six to eight units at 55 Main St., and four units at 95-97 Main St.
Asked why PAK Solutions made such an investment, spokesperson Sharon Kopp said, “If you look around town there’s no housing for anyone up here, and our company is growing.”
Formerly known as PAK 2000, the company was purchased by a group of investors on June 1, 2017.
Over the past four years, PAK Solutions increased staffing from under 20 to nearly 90 employees.
While the company hired “a lot of local people,” they have also recruited from out-of-area to maintain and support growth. Efforts to attract and retain workers have been frustrated by a regional lack of housing.
“We have found that candidates who want to move up here can’t, because they haven’t been able to find affordable housing. Or the housing they do find is gone before they know it,” Kopp said.
That prompted the company owners to take a bold step.
They purchased 95-97 Main St. at an earlier date and then closed on 55 Main St. (the historic Chesley Block) on Oct. 4 for approximately $400,000.
It won’t interfere with downtown commerce. PAK Solutions intends to maintain the street-level retail spaces in both buildings. That includes the former Simon The Tanner space at 55 Main St.
Kopp said the company owners “all fell in love with Lancaster and want to see it thrive.”
PAK Solutions has certainly thrived.
Since changing hands, the company has boosted production. Today it runs 16 production lines and manufactures 300,000 to 500,000 plastic bags per day, serving customers across the country and around the world.
They make so-called “flexible packaging” and their products range from security bags for retail stores, coin and cash bags for banks, specimen bags for medial labs, mailer bags for online merchants, bread and potato bags, soil and mulch bags, and more.
PAK Solutions also runs a full-service print shop for bag labeling.
The to-be-created workforce housing on Main Street will help PAK Solutions to fill job openings (such as second-shift and print-shop positions), but isn’t meant to serve the company alone.
Kopp said the workforce housing at 55 and 95-97 Main St. was intended to benefit the entire community, including other employers like Trividia Manufacturing Solutions Inc. and Weeks Medical Center.
“We want to have a neighborly working relationship,” she said.
The housing problem extends beyond Lancaster.
New Hampshire’s tough rental market became even tougher during COVID-19. The Granite State’s 2-bedroom vacancy rate is below 1 percent, and 2-bedroom rents average nearly $1,500, according to a report by the New Hampshire Housing Authority.
Making the rental market even tighter are the growth of short-term rental properties (AirBNB, VRBO, etc.) and the spate of COVID-fueled home sales.
In addition to PAK Solutions, the non-profit Northern Forest Center is renovating the former Parker J. Noyes building in downtown Lancaster to include six two-bedroom apartments.
Similarly, that project was in response to the needs of area employers.