Brewer News

Brewer project to create 500 jobs

6.06.2007 – About 500 people drive to the Portland waterfront every day to work on Cianbro Corp.’s project converting two sulfur carriers into two of the world’s largest offshore service vessels. Nearly 75 percent of those workers come from north of Augusta.

So while businesses and city officials in the Brewer area are celebrating Cianbro’s announcement Saturday that it plans to bring 500 new jobs at the idle Eastern Fine Paper Company mill site, the party will probably spread deep into central and western Maine once the facility is up and running.

“We believe here in the State of Maine there are a lot of people that are underemployed as a result of some of the shrinkage that has occurred in heavy industry,” said Peter Vigue, Cianbro’s president and chief executive officer. “Recognizing all of that, we’ve looked for creative ways to export our knowledge and skill.”

The mill site will be used to manufacture modules, prefabricated, self standing steel structures that can be joined together and finished off at other sites. The modules can exceed five stories in height and weigh more than 1,000 tons. The company will need at least 500 skilled laborers, such as welders, pipe fitters, millwrights and electricians.

Cianbro will be one of just a handful of companies in the country building modules larger than 1,000 tons.

While there is a surplus of skilled labor in Maine, nationally skilled labor is at a premium, Vigue said. By putting laborers back to work here, Cianbro can build modules that can save time and money in construction outside the state.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Vigue said. “It’s a unique approach.”

The Brewer site, logistically, is nearly ideal for the venture. It is on the banks of the Penobscot River, which will accommodate the 400-foot long barges to move the modules. The facility also is close to Interstate 395, has railroad access and is close to Bangor International Airport.

Most importantly, however, the facility has access to a huge industrial workforce eager for the opportunity Cianbro will provide, Vigue said. Residents of areas such as Millinocket, and Jay have lost high-paying jobs in industry and now are working for much less money in other professions. Cianbro’s hourly employees can earn up to $100,000 per year.

“It won’t be unusual for people to come from as far south as Augusta, as far north as Millinocket and as far west as Farmington on a daily basis,” Vigue said. “I believe in this state, but more than that, I believe in the people of this state. They deserve the opportunity.”

For Cianbro and its 2,000 employees, about 1,300 of whom live and work in Maine, the Brewer facility is an opportunity to diversify and grow, Vigue said. All of the company’s shares have been owned by employees since 2004.

“They own the company and it’s a huge benefit to them,” Vigue said. “They benefit from success.”

Even those who do not work directly for Cianbro will benefit, Vigue said. The company does as much business in Maine as possible, from shipping to subcontracting manufacturers.

Based on past projects in Maine, such as a recent oil drilling rig project in Portland, Vigue estimated that four to seven new jobs are created for every new Cianbro job.

“It’s a huge area we cover,” he said. “We can only enhance and improve other businesses at the same time. It helps everybody. It’s not just about us, it’s about all of us.”

The Cianbro company is already made up of 10 different companies, or arms, all with different specialties, such as fabrication and coating and heavy construction. The Brewer project will give Cianbro another specialty.

“We’re going to do everything we’ve always done, but we’re growing our organization,” Vigue said. “We’re extremely diversified. We’re not just a construction company.”

Vigue, who said the company is in the process of finalizing negotiations on the first major contract, hopes construction on the first module will begin by next April.

“We’ve been working on this well over a year,” he said. “This is not just a dream. This is something that will happen.”

The windows in businesses along Main Street in Brewer were accented by signs this week welcoming Cianbro to their town. In truth, Vigue said, the celebration should spread well beyond Brewer.

“The bottom line here is it’s all about people working in a collaborative manner, toward a common goal and believing in themselves, that they can do great things,” Vigue said. “The people in this state, whether a worker or business person or part of the community, when they are given an opportunity they appreciate it. We don’t get that same sense of appreciation in other places where we work. It’s fun to make a difference and benefit a community like this state.”

A copyright story from the Kennebec Journal – Morning Sentinel, Wednesday, June 6, 2007 by Craig Crosby.