Brewer News

Fulfilling a state vision for economy

6.03.2007 – The president and CEO of Cianbro Corp. said his plan to build a modular construction facility in Brewer is part of his larger goal of revitalizing Maine’s economy.

The project “is not about Cianbro. It’s not about me. It’s about the people [of Maine] and their ability to meet just about any challenge you put in front of them. They are committed, they are desirous, they simply want the opportunity,” Peter G. Vigue said in an interview this week.

Cianbro and South Brewer Redevelopment, a limited liability corporation created to own and operate the defunct mill site, signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday to work together toward a purchase-and-sale agreement for the former Eastern Fine Paper Co. mill site.

In the next year, Cianbro plans to demolish most of the existing buildings and turn the mill into a manufacturing facility that will design, engineer and assemble 1,200-ton self-standing steel building frames with piping and electrical channels. The structures will stand up to five stories tall and, when joined, will be able to house a wide range of industrial facilities, Vigue said.

The tentatively named Brewer Module Facility will employ 500 people initially, Vigue said. He declined to reveal the cost of the project but said it reached “multiples of seven figures.”

The site also will have a pier for barges that deliver supplies and transport the modular structures, Vigue said. The city of Brewer will own the pier and will allow other local businesses to use it, D’arcy Main-Boyington, Brewer’s director of economic development, said in an interview.

Vigue said he chose to locate the facility in Brewer because of its welcoming economic development team, the surfeit of “hard workers” nearby and its proximity to the Penobscot River and Interstate 95.

“Eight or nine years ago, I began understanding the difference between the availability, the quality of labor in Maine, and the demand for that outside the state,” Vigue said. He described a nationwide shortage of highly skilled, technical workers and said Maine’s greatest asset is its labor force.

“When I looked at the trends, the demands outside the state of Maine, I wondered, ‘How do we play that field without going out of here?’ … We see that there’s a group of people in the northern half of the state who are not interested in moving and are underemployed. They’re doing jobs below their ability level.”

Vigue said he knows of only four major facilities on the East Coast and Gulf Coast similar to the one he plans to build.

He said he anticipates that the Brewer Module Facility will be successful, but declined to list names of potential clients, citing confidentiality.

“We’re looking to create a modularization facility to support all of North America, any industrial medium,” Vigue said. He said the company’s Baltimore office has exported to China modules smaller than those planned for Brewer.

“We’re not new at this game,” Vigue said.

Clients likely will purchase the steel for the modules and Cianbro will buy piping and electrical equipment, Vigue said. He said he plans to purchase supplies from Maine businesses whenever possible.

Modular structures are in demand in most major industries, Vigue said, listing the pharmaceutical, petrochemical, power generation and transportation industries as examples. He said that in the future, new industrial facilities would be standardized and modularized, rather than customized, to save time and money.

Cianbro has regional offices in Maine, Connecticut and Maryland and ongoing projects in 15 states, including the construction of the new Hollywood Slots at Bangor and the conversion of the world’s two largest offshore supply vessels at Portland Harbor.

Widely known as a heavy-construction firm, Cianbro said the Brewer Module Facility would contribute to its efforts to diversify its services, which already include modular construction and steel fabrication and coating.

“This further broadens our capability as a company and our ability to take on a variety of diverse activities and projects and does not limit us just to the Northeast,” Vigue said.

The company’s gross annual revenue is approximately $350 million. Cianbro employs about 1,300 people in Maine and 2,000 total on the East Coast. The 58-year-old company is 100 percent employee-owned, Vigue said.

Brewer City Manager Stephen Bost said in an interview Thursday that he believes the Brewer Module Facility has a promising future.

“This is going to be here permanently, for years down the road,” Bost said. “We were very taken with Peter Vigue’s vision for revitalizing this region’s economy, taking this employee sector, ramping them up to fill empty positions, training them, and in so doing, capturing talent that might otherwise be lost. That has a tremendous appeal to me and to the team.”

The “team” is South Brewer Redevelopment, which consists of Bost, Main-Boyington and Tanya Pereira, Brewer’s economic development specialist. They have been working nonstop to arrange the deal since Vigue approached them in late January.

Because the Brewer Module Facility will consist of “light construction,” the facility will have very few emissions from the construction equipment, Vigue said. A few environmental concerns remain at the former mill site, including asbestos and contaminants in the top 2 feet of ground soil. This summer, Cianbro plans to begin site preparations while South Brewer Redevelopment oversees an environmental cleanup of the site.

The project also must receive approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Department of Transportation.

A copyright story from the Bangor Daily News, Saturday, June 3, 2007.