As energy contractors go, Union,-Ill. based INTREN Inc. is a regional powerhouse. The largest MWBE-owned specialty contractor in the Midwest, the firm was founded 27 years ago by Loretta Rosenmayer as a 20-employee trenching firm known as Trench-It. Its break came when Chicago electrical utility ComED was so overwhelmed by a local housing boom it solicited small trenching companies to supplement its workforce. Since then, Intren has emerged as a full-service power and energy contractor, serving some of the region's largest utilities, including ComED, People's Gas, We Energies, Ameren Energy and Nicor Gas Co.

After years of incremental growth, the firm nearly doubled its revenues between 2011 and 2014. Last year, revenues soared by 25%, another breakthrough for the firm.

Growth has come as a result of several key alliances and initiatives, as well as a culture that promotes training and development.

Recent projects included the Peoples Gas Modernization Project, for which INTREN  was one of five contractors selected to execute $300 million infrastructure improvements to Chicago's natural gas system, including installation of new polyethylene main, retirement of old cast iron pipes and upgrades in system pressure to promote safe and reliable distribution.

Another project is the Com Ed Smart Grid Program, a 10-year, $2.6 billion program to modernize Northern Illinois' electric grid with INTREN accelerating efforts to refurbish and replace underground residential cable.

In addition to its work on ongoing projects, INTREN also frequently finds itself in the front lines of disaster relief. As a result of 24/7 Emergency Storm Response and Restoration initiative, the firm can immediately dispatch as many as 200 workers by truck regions affected by natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, ice storms, earthquakes and fires. In recent years, the firm has sent hundred of employees assist utilities with storm restoration in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana. 

To promote growth in the local workforce, INTREN joined other local contractors and ComED to launch Chicago's Construction Jobs Education Pilot Program (CJEP), since renamed CONSTRUCT, to provide training to minorities interested in careers in construction. CONSTRUCT works in partnership with the National Latino Education Institute, Bethel New Life and Chicago Urban League. The eight-week program provides up to 60 candidates with the training, information and guidance needed to compete for good-paying, entry-level jobs in construction-related fields.

To support the development of the women it employs, INTREN formed Promoting Of Women in Energy Roles (POWER), a group that meets twice monthly and engages with Midwest Energy Association's Energetic Women.

INTREN supports numerous charities, both locally and nationwide, including Interfaith Committee of Detained Immigrants, which advocates for detained immigrants lacking in resources.

It deployed crews to assist in clean up and restoration efforts following Hurricane Sandy.

For these and other reasons, ENR's network of regional editors has named INTREN ENR Midwest's Specialty Contractor of the Year. Learn more about INTREN when it is profiled in the Sept. 28 edition of ENR Midwest.