AMESBURY — The Amesbury Carriage Museum's new capital campaign has shifted into high gear thanks to a $100,000 donation from ARC Technologies founder Dan Healey.

"Donating this kind of money gives the museum credibility," Healey said. "It shows a lot of good faith and most of the projects I have done in Amesbury – in fact all of them – have been successful. I'm going to make sure that this one is too."

Amesbury Industrial Supply owner Greg Jardis donated approximately 2,300 square feet of space in his large High Street hardware store to the Carriage Museum late last year.

Carriage Museum Executive Director John Mayer has been leading a $550,000 capital campaign to pay for the build-out of the space, which he called the Industrial History Center at Mill 2 in an email Wednesday. 

Mayer said he's happy to have found his lead donor in Healey.

"Dan was always a friend of the museum and now he is taking a huge step forward and showing his leadership and commitment to this project," Mayer said. "This is the lead gift for our campaign. Having our lead donor in place really blazes the trail for us. It shows others in the community that this is really going to happen."

Healey sold his composite materials company to Hexcel Corp. for $160 million late last year and said he has always been fascinated with the city's history.

"I started ARC in an old mill building 30 years ago. I just fell in love with that old brick building," Healey said. "The population here was double the size back a hundred years ago."

Healey said the Carriage Museum's focus on industrial history inspired him to get involved.

"The museum has a program for school kids and I think that is fantastic," he said. "It is extremely important and I am lucky enough to be in a position that I can help to donate that type of money."

Donating a large sum can give a museum some quick credibility, according to Healey.

"This shows that people really believe in this organization," he said.

Mayer said the Carriage Museum has been the beneficiary of many of the city's business leaders.

The museum houses its administrative offices in 500 square feet at 5 Market Square, courtesy of former Gould Insurance owner Jay Gould. The museum will stage its exhibits in Jardis' building and now Healey has pledged $100,000 to get the Industrial History Center at Mill 2 started.

"Dan has been an advocate and has contributed membership and sponsorship funding for the museum," Mayer said. "But he had never really stepped forward and shown this amount of leadership that this pledge reflects."

Mayor said the museum's capital campaign raised $150,000 from 20 to 30 donors prior to Healey's $100,000 pledge and is still in its "silent phase."

"We have a little bit more work to do," Mayer said. "We're about halfway to where we want to be. We want to be about 80% before we go public."

The Carriage Museum held its first Driving through History fundraiser, which Mayer said netted roughly $6,000 late last month.

Mayer said The Provident Bank supported the museum's school campaign and Newburyport Bank helped with the capital project.

"One thing after the other, little by little, all of the pieces are coming together," he said. "It has taken a long time to get to the point where we feel like we are finally taking off, but I feel like that is the situation we are in. This is validation of the program and shows a lot of enthusiasm from the community."

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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