Opportunity is a word close to Loretta Rosenmayer's heart.

From the day in 1988 when she assumed ownership of a small northeastern Illinois trenching and landscaping enterprise named Trench-It to assist in supporting her family, all she has desired is an opportunity to compete and demonstrate her capabilities and those of her colleagues.

"A woman-owned certification will get you in the door in the utility industry, but that's all it will do," says Rosenmayer. "What's important is your service delivery, performance, reliability and integrity. If you can prove yourself, you'll be selected and given more work."

It would appear that Rosenmayer's firm, which adopted the name INTREN Inc. in 2009, has fulfilled those expectations, and then some, under her stewardship as CEO.

Headquartered in Union, Ill., INTREN is the Midwest's largest MWBE-owned specialty contractor and a key player in the region's utility infrastructure market. With more than 1,100 employees and four Midwest offices, in addition to branches in Oklahoma and California, INTREN provides full-service above- and below-ground installations, repairs, maintenance, design and upgrade services to the region's leading electric and gas utilities, including ComED, Peoples Gas, We Energies, Ameren Energy and Nicor Gas Co., as well as to contractors and municipalities in the area.

Key alliances, combined with a steadily improving economy, have accelerated INTREN's growth over the past several years, most recently to a 32% leap in revenue to $199.8 million in 2014 from $151 million in the prior year.

However, a strong balance sheet isn't the sole basis for honoring INTREN as ENR Midwest's Specialty Contractor of the Year.

The firm currently is involved in several massive infrastructure reinvestment programs seeking to improve the competitiveness of Midwest manufacturers in the global marketplace. At present, INTREN is one of six contractors engaged in the $4.6-billion Peoples Gas Modernization Project, an initiative encompassing infrastructure improvements to metropolitan Chicago's 1,900-mile natural gas system, including installation of new polyethylene main, retirement of old cast iron pipes and upgrades in system pressure to enhance distribution reliability.

INTREN also is supporting a 10-year, $2.6-billion Smart Grid Program for Chicago-based electric utility ComEd. In addition to providing project management for the program's entire Underground Residential Distribution (URD) Cable Program, INTREN and its partner firms have replaced or installed more than 1,577 miles of new and refurbished cable across service areas since January 2012.

Rosenmayer jokingly refers to INTREN as "the company that ComEd built," given its association with Illinois' largest electric utility, which commenced more than 25 years ago, when her firm was recruited to assist in reducing a large backlog of electric hookups resulting from a subdivision housing boom in the late 1980s.

"ComEd didn't have resources to keep up, so they subcontracted the underground work to a pair of small companies, one of which was ours," Rosenmayer recalls. "We weren't union at the time, so we had to act quickly to fulfill all insurance and administrative requirements. Luckily, a woman friend loaned me $15,000, and we were able to get going."

ComEd subsequently commissioned the firm with various underground and back-up electrical projects, among other assignments. While welcome, the growing workload began stretching company resources while challenging Rosenmayer's acumen, much of it gained secondhand from family members involved in utilities.