Sabrina Thompson, The Observer

Countertop Solutions received an upgrade thanks in part to La Grande Urban Renewal Agency funding. The custom manufacturing and retail business

redesigned and renovated a space in its building to help handle the increase of business in La Grande.

“The project was going to happen whether we were awarded the funding or not, so having it to offset the cost was nice,” said co-owner Sam Jacobson.

Nine years ago, Jacobson, along with business partner Chris Loman, purchased the building at 1417 Jefferson Ave. that houses Countertop Solutions. Since then, a portion of the building has remained unused except for storage.

Countertop Solutions builds custom countertops, cutting granite stone, acrylic and laminate to service Baker, Wallowa, Umatilla and Union counties. Previously, the business used a shop in Pendleton, but when that closed down the owners decided to turn the vacant room into their own local shop for cutting counters.

“When he shut down we decided we needed to have good granite happening out here still,” Jacobson said.

Funding received by the Urban Renewal Agency, which totaled $36,789, went toward pouring new concrete floors, updating plumbing and electricity and making structural reinforcements for the building. Additional upgrades to the shop included installing new equipment and hiring three new full-time employees.

Work for the project began at the end of March, within a day or two of the application being submitted to the city, as contractors had been secured already and they were set to get to work. The renovation was estimated to be completed by April 25. The portion of the overall project paid for with URA funds is finished, but other upgrades to the building’s showroom and other spaces continue.

The total project cost to renovate the building space was projected to be $250,365.36. However, Jacobson said the project has incurred unexpected costs. The additional funding needed to finish the project is coming from a bank loan.

The project addresses three of the four goals of the La Grande Urban Renewal Plan. In its application for URA funding, the company stated that upgrading the shop will help in revitalizing downtown, with money coming into the community from customers traveling to La Grande for custom countertops. The project created three new full-time positions that provide family-wage jobs for local residents. And, the location of Countertop Solutions, being so close to downtown, will also bring customers to other downtown businesses, helping with retail development.

“We took a pretty big space and turned it into a shop,” Jacobson said. “As far as having this here and available in this area, it’s been a big benefit. It keeps the work local.”