The Cianbro Cos.’ post-pandemic growth is a testament to its breadth of capabilities and to the value of having a nimble team that can move from one project challenge to the next with diverse skill sets built up over the years.

The Pittsfield, Maine-based contractor has increased revenue 41% since appearing on the 2020 ENR New England Top Contractors ranking. The firm has ranked fifth on the regional survey for three straight years, posting $790.26 million in 2022 regional revenue on this year’s survey (p. NYNE27). It also ranks at No. 96 on the ENR national Top 400 contractors list, reporting last year a total of $1.163 billion in U.S. revenue. Cianbro, which is 100% owned by its 4,000-person staff, says it has locations in 40 states.

This growth results from the firm’s expanded work in vertical power and oil and gas-related sectors and U.S. government contracting as well as through strategic acquisitions and a commitment to “team member” development. “We really focus on diversification,” says Andi Vigue, Cianbro president and CEO. “That allows the company to ebb and flow through economic changes.” Working in the building, industrial, manufacturing, infrastructure, energy and petrochemical markets has provided the company with a successful formula that “tends to be a positive year over year,” he says.

Cianbro and subsidiary A/Z Corp

Cianbro and subsidiary A/Z Corp. are building a 105,000-sq-ft hangar to service the entire C-5M Super Galaxy fleet of jets at the Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Mass.
Photo courtesy Cianbro Corp.

The open shop firm is overcoming slowing commercial and office space work with a surge in federal infrastructure spending that includes government projects such as the $1.7-billion P-381 dry dock upgrade and expansion at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, on which Cianbro has a contract.

Among its recent acquisitions to expand geographic and market reach are R.C. Stevens Construction Co, Winter Garden, Fla., in 2022 and A/Z Corp., a North Stonington, Conn.-based design, construction and maintenance firm, in 2019.

Cianbro’s breadth of capabilities has paid off in its work at the Procter & Gamble Tambrands facility in Auburn, Maine. Jim Huard, the plant facilities leader, says the contractor’s scope of work there is “significantly larger than standard general construction work.”

During the last 19 years, Cianbro has performed heavy construction, and production equipment installation and modification. According to Huard, the manufacturer can “go to them for almost anything.”

Closeup: Cianbro New England Projects

P-381 Dry Dock
The $1.73-billion project at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, involves constructing two dry docks of sufficient size and depth to support maintenance and overhaul of U.S. Navy Virginia-class submarines. The firm is building 4,000-ton concrete monoliths at its module facility in Brewer, Maine. 

Veranda Street Bridge Replacement
Cianbro crews replaced in 60 hours one of the busiest sections in Maine of Interstate 295, leveraging self-propelled modular transporters for the $20.8-million project that featured the first use of accelerated bridge construction in the state.

Timber HP Insulation Plant 
This retrofit of the former Madison, Maine, paper mill will create a new facility to manufacture wood fiber insulation for residential and commercial construction markets.  


Immigrant Roots

Cianbro’s culture of teamwork and commitment is rooted in the contractor’s heritage dating to Ralph Cianchette’s emigration from Italy to Maine, where he established a bridge building business in the 1930s. After Cianchette closed the firm due to economic pressures during World War II, oldest son Carl and two brothers launched a construction operation in 1946 that revived the family business and Cianbro Corp was formed three years later. The last founding sibling survivor, Ken Cianchette, died this year at age 98.

By 1970, Andi Vigue’s father, Pete Vigue, who once delivered newspapers to the Cianchettes, became a laborer for the contractor and worked his way up to become its first non-family president in 1991. The elder Vigue, now 76, was succeeded by his son in 2018 and is Cianbro chair.

A barge carrying a docking entrance

A barge carrying a docking entrance for the super flood basin at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was floated from Cianbro Ricker’s Wharf location in Portland, Maine.
Photo courtesy Cianbro Corp.

Andi Vigue, who also did odd jobs for the Cianchette brothers, says he’s proud Cianbro has sustained its culture as it nears its 75th anniversary. A placard in every firm conference room reads: “No one in this room is smarter than all of us.” Cianbro teaches workers to understand “what it takes to develop a relationship,” he says, and to “understand what the customer challenges are ... and how to contribute to solutions for them.”

Now in his 30th year of Cianbro employment, Vigue, 53, declined to share details of the firm’s succession plan other than to say that it is “robust.” But, he says, “it’s not about me. What will be most rewarding is seeing the organization succeed based on the core values we’ve instilled in people and taught long after I am gone.”

self-propelled modular transporters

In replacing Veranda Street bridge, the Cianbro team leveraged self-propelled modular transporters to roll the structure into place, allowing it to be built closer to the ground and farther from active traffic.
Photo courtesy Cianbro Corp.

Empowering Workers

Cianbro started its employee stock ownership plan in 2004. Vigue says his employee owners don’t “work for me, I work for them. They have the opportunity to develop skills and advance their careers to provide for their families.”

To help develop its team, the firm established the Cianbro Institute in 2007. College students can participate in paid internships with company-run courses that include engineering, construction management and safety.

Tammy Hillman enrolled in the institute’s electrical apprentice program in 2019 after years of management jobs outside of construction. Today, she works in the firm’s power and energy division, which she likens to a “big family.” As one of just a few women in the program, she says the workplace environment “is like having a whole bunch of brothers.”

According to Hillman, learning about substation transmission and electricity distribution is challenging, but co-workers are always willing to help. Since finishing the four-year apprenticeship in April, she has worked at a Shearon Harris nuclear power plant substation in New Hill, N.C. This summer, Hillman is taking a 45-hour code class in advance of the state electrician license exam.

“We really focus on diversi-fication. That allows the company to ebb and flow through economic changes.”
—Andi Vigue, President & CEO, Cianbro Cos.

Levi Andrew, a Cianbro journey-level pipe welder, currently works at the Tugalo hydroelectric plant in Georgia. The Joplin, Mo., native enrolled in Cianbro pipe welding craft development programs two years ago. Since then, he has gained experience working in a paper mill, a waste-to-energy power plant and a liquid natural gas-fueled power plant. He recently finished the firm’s four-month structural welding and pipe welding courses. Andrew, who won gold in the pipe welding competition at this year’s national Associated Builders and Contractors craft championships, says, “If you’re a good worker and you’re working hard, they take care of their people.”

Andrew Hallett, a senior project manager who was recognized as a 2023 ENR Top 25 Newsmaker for leading the Cianbro team that cast and floated a massive concrete entrance for the P-381 dry dock project, says he has benefited from mentorships at the firm. He points to company superintendent Archie Wheaton as a guiding influence since the two met at a jobsite tour when Hallett was a University of Maine civil engineering student.

Since Hallett’s first internship with the firm in 2006, the manager has worked as an estimator, a bridge project engineer and a superintendent on the Gut Bridge replacement in South Bristol, Maine. He says he also has benefited from Cianbro Institute’s management development program, which helps newer staff members reach their career goals by interacting and networking with company leaders. Cianbro’s “knack for doing projects other contractors don’t want to do” keeps him engaged. “Cianbro likes to go after the challenging projects,” Hallett says. “That’s the fun stuff in my mind.”

Andi Vigue, Cianbro president

Andi Vigue, Cianbro president and CEO since 2018, says the firm’s 4,000 employee owners “don’t work for me, I work for them.”
Photo courtesy Cianbro Corp.

Safety Journey

But as projects have involved more heavy construction, safety risks grow. Former CEO Pete Vigue established the firm’s safety culture in the late 1980s after a series of injuries and fatalities—including a worker’s 1987 fatal fall on a Connecticut bridge project. Cianbro was not faulted for that accident, but it mandated a series of safety policies, including that workers 10 ft or higher must always tie off. As a result, Vigue personally investigated all lost-time injuries.

“Cianbro likes to go after the challenging projects ... that’s the fun stuff in my mind.”
—Andrew Hallett, Senior Project Manager, Cianbro Cos.

More recently, the firm has recorded one fatality during an approximate 10-year period, according to U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration records. A worker for a Cianbro subcontractor, H.B. Fleming, filed a lawsuit against the contractor last year claiming it failed to develop an adequate safety plan for loading and unloading pilings. The worker was seriously injured in 2020 when five tons of steel sheet pilings fell on him while working on an Interstate-95 overpass in Maine, say media reports. OSHA fined Cianbro, citing it for failing to keep metal material from sliding, falling or collapsing. The company declined to comment on the case status.

Meanwhile, Cianbro’s “overall well-being” approach to safety includes reporting work and non-work-related injuries and illnesses each day. Cianbro’s safety culture also has evolved to include mental health. The firm gives staff free access to a stress and anxiety relief app that offers guided breathing, meditation and mindfulness exercises.

CEO Vigue says workers who cope with non-work related issues are “better and safer when at work.”

Mike Bennett, vice president at Cianbro, adds, “Safety is a journey. Along the way, there are lessons learned to be shared and old lessons learned that are worth repeating as new team members join the company and bring with them their own experiences.”