Rockland city councilors gave their enthusiastic support Feb. 10 to a business that wants to manufacture high-end women’s apparel from its Main Street retail shop.

The council voted 5-0 to authorize the submission of a grant to the Maine Community Development Block Grant Program to help Nuthatch Properties LLC receive up to $100,000. The money would be used to help the company acquire equipment and renovate space in the rear of 412 Main St. to allow for the manufacturing of women’s apparel.

Community development consultant Chris Shrum said this is only the first phase of a planned multiphase project. He said Nuthatch’s partners Beth Bowley and Jinsook Lawrence want to expand, probably in Rockland, within the next couple of years.

Initially, the business will employ four people in the manufacturing part of the business. Hiring could begin late this summer, Shrum said. The company should know about the grant in May, he said.

Bowley started the retail business fourTWELVE that opened in Rockland in 2007 and operates in the front of 412 Main St. The goal is for Nuthatch to manufacture the clothing and sell it to boutiques around the country.

Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson said that when she ran for the City Council last year, one thing she heard repeatedly from citizens was that they wanted to see more year-round jobs as opposed to just seasonal tourist-dependent employment.

“It’s so wonderful to have something like this happen,” Dickerson said. “From these beginnings can grow great things.”

Councilor Eric Hebert said he is always happy to support economic development projects in Rockland. He thanked the two businesswomen for their faith in Rockland.

Hebert said that despite the gloomy economic picture of the past year or two, there still has been a considerable amount of investment in Rockland.

Councilors Tom Molloy and Brian Harden also expressed their support, noting the history of apparel manufacturing in Rockland.

Rockland had hundreds of apparel manufacturing jobs until the early 1990s. The largest ones to close in the past 20 years were Nautica and Schoolhouse Togs. Nautica ceased manufacturing clothing in the early 1990s but continued to operate a distribution center in the Industrial Park until 2002. Schoolhouse Togs closed in 1992 on Winter Street.

“This is a feather in Rockland’s cap,” Molloy said.

Citizen Tom Weiss also voiced support for the grant application during the public hearing Feb. 10. He said he first lived in Rockland in 1997, building boats, and has returned on several occasions.

“I keep coming back because Rockland feels like a place where things can happen,” Weiss said. “This is a great model for your people.”

Nuthatch will have to match the grant dollar for dollar. The application will be filed in March.

According to fourTWELVE’s Web site, the store is the lifelong dream of Bowley, a Maine native and New York fashion designer. She started her own line of clothing in 1998 and her collections have been featured in magazines such as Lucky, Elle and In Style and the clothing is sold in boutiques nationwide.