ELLSWORTH — The Jackson Laboratory has increased its minimum wage to $15.75 an hour and will hire 300 new employees over the next year, according to a press release from Senior Public Relations Manager Sarah Laskowski on Tuesday.
The move comes as the Bar Harbor-based organization, which made $400 million before expenses in 2017, continues to build out its new mouse-production facility at the former Lowe’s in Ellsworth.
This is the second time in less than five years that the lab has raised its entry-level wage.
In 2016, it increased it to $15 per hour, the same year Maine voters approved a statewide incremental minimum wage increase from $7.50 to $12 an hour by 2020.
“Investments in infrastructure and workforce development are critical to the growth and prosperity of Maine communities,” said Katy Longley, executive vice president and chief operating officer, in a statement. “We are proud to be able to offer new career, wage, education and training opportunities to potential employees within the state and to attract employees from locations outside Maine.”
The move means that the lab’s lowest paid workers will be making more than the average for a Hancock County resident. The average pay was roughly $15.50 an hour in 2017 (including two weeks paid vacation).
The average annual compensation package at the lab (including salary and benefits) comes in at $64,000, Longley said in an interview in February. This is higher than the median income for an entire household in Hancock County, which was $52,000 last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.
“I really would love to make JAX the employer of choice,” Longley said in February.
“Those designations of ‘best place to work’ … that would be my aspirational goal.”
The lab has around 1,500 employees in Bar Harbor and 41 in Ellsworth, Longley said in February. At “full build-out” there will be 350 positions in Ellsworth.
This week the nonprofit also announced that it will offer a $2,500 relocation bonus to new employees who move from more than 50 miles away to work in animal care, as well as regularly scheduled pay increases and a $3,000 bonus after one year on the job.
The Jackson Lab is the fifth largest nonprofit and 17th largest employer in Maine, Longley said.
The new employees will need to contend with the problem of housing availability, a perennial issue in both Bar Harbor and Ellsworth.
Longley has said that she intends to explore “all options” in the search for housing, including collaboration with developers and Acadia National Park, as well as potentially developing 100 acres owned by the lab near Schooner Head in Bar Harbor.