Cianbro, a Pittsfield construction company known around the state and the nation, has won a multimillion-dollar, 15-month contract to construct building modules — prefabricated, self-standing building skeletons for a large refinery expansion project in Texas.
“This is a big deal and it’s the first project for the facility,” Peter G. Vigue, CEO and president of Cianbro Corp., said this week of the Brewer project.
Cianbro is in the process of changing the defunct Eastern Fine Paper Co. mill site, which closed in 2004, into a modular manufacturing facility.
The company will employ at least 500 local welders, pipe fitters, electricians and other skilled personnel at the plant starting in April. Their first job will be to build 54 modules, each weighing 500 tons or more.
Work crews began Monday removing structures at the century-old industrial site.
Cianbro’s decision to name its plant Eastern Manufacturing Facility was to honor the former employees, many of whom spent a good portion of their lives in the old paper mill.
“The people in that community are very, very proud of that,” Vigue said.
Because the modules need to go together easily, Cianbro employees have spent numerous hours working with the refinery’s nearly 1,500 engineers, said Peter Foster, general manager of the Eastern Manufacturing Facility.
“We have a lot of input on how these are made,” he said, adding that he has traveled to Houston several times for the huge endeavor.
“It’s not your typical run of the mill project,” Vigue said. “It’s very serious. Intense.”
At the Eastern site, the only mill buildings that will remain are the administrative building, the loading docks and the old boiler room.
“It’s a sequential demolition” starting on the river side, Foster said.
Once the old buildings are removed and the utilities are replaced with new underground lines, a 250,000-square-foot structural pad will be constructed, and a deep water dock will be built to bring in supplies and ship the huge modules down the Penobscot River.
“We have all the permits except for the [U.S. Army] Corps and [Maine Department of Environmental Protection] for the bulkhead,” Vigue said, adding later that dredging for the new marina should start in November, if all goes as scheduled.
The massive modules will be built at the 41-acre South Main Street site and will be moved by barge to their industrial clients in the Gulf Coast.
Cianbro first approached Brewer in January about the project and proposed the massive module facility undertaking in June.
The century-old industrial site in Brewer “has it’s challenges, that’s for sure,” Vigue said. “This is a heavily contaminated site.”
However, he added, “it’s located in a great spot” near Bangor International Airport, the highway system and an underutilized, skilled work force. “It made a lot of sense to locate it there.”
Local company Vaughn Thibodeau and Sons will do the site work and probably will hire about 20 subcontractors, company officials said.
There already is a need for extra storage space, because the 41-acre former mill site doesn’t have enough room for all the steel that will be used to build the modules. Most of the needed steel already has been purchased by the owners of the refinery.
Cianbro is hiring and has been, Vigue said, adding, “We will be training 200 workers for this project at seven different facilities in the state.”
A majority of those will be welders, he said. In addition to Cianbro’s Web site, cianbro.com, and the job line, 1-866-CIANBRO, a job kiosk will be operated at the Bangor Mall in November for those interested in finding out more about the hiring process.
Brewer is going to host a vendor workshop in November for businesses that are interested in providing supplies to Cianbro, Tanya Pereira, Brewer’s economic development specialist, said Wednesday.
The hard work of city officials and the integrity of Maine workers made Brewer the perfect locale for the project, Vigue said.
“We’re at the end of the road, and we’re able to achieve a huge project like this,” he said. “It gives people in Maine confidence that we can compete.”
A copyright story from the Bangor Daily News, Thursday, October 18, 2007.