BANGOR, Maine — One of the catchiest advertising slogans of the last 50 years is, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen,” a reference to the successful Wall Street stockbroker.
In Greater Bangor, the same might be said these days for Cianbro Corp. CEO Peter Vigue, who is a sought-after guest speaker for Rotary Clubs, economic development committees and many other clubs and organizations.
The latest audience for Vigue was the Bangor City Council on Monday, and Chairman Richard Stone said he invited the well-known business leader for the same reason people invested with E.F. Hutton. When he talks, people listen.
“We’re sometimes in danger of living in our own little world. He travels in some different circles,” Stone said. “We were trying to get his take on how he sees the Bangor region relative to the rest of the state.”
Vigue spoke for about two hours on Monday, covering a wide variety of topics including Bangor’s plans for a new arena, the state’s (untapped) economic development potential and creating more public-private partnerships.
His informal talk had all the trappings of a gubernatorial stump speech — inspiration combined with specific proposals — but Vigue, as he has done for months now, did not reveal any Blaine House intentions. He didn’t rule anything out either.
“Every time I talk to different groups, I use a lot of the same examples, because they are things I believe in,” Vigue said Tuesday. “I’m very passionate about Maine and what this state could be.”
Vigue addressed Bangor’s pending arena decision at the beginning and left no doubt about his feelings on that subject.
“There is still a lot to be debated, but moving forward would allow this city to make a statement that no other can,” he said. “If 50 percent of what’s proposed is realized, it would be unmatched in the state.”
Of course, Vigue’s company, Cianbro, is likely to be at least a player in a new arena, but Stone and Vigue both said that’s not why he was invited this week.
“We would be interested, sure, but that’s not why I was there,” Vigue said after the meeting. “The way I look at things is not only what’s in the best interest of Cianbro but what’s in the best interest of the state.”
Once he moved on from his thoughts on Bangor’s new arena, Vigue recapped his “Transforming Maine” initiative that would make significant investments in six areas of the state’s economy: home and business weatherization, energy supplies, business climate, food security, health care, and transportation. Maine would pay for those initiatives largely by building an energy corridor along the interstate and then charging companies to lease space.
“Every one of those six things is a problem or challenge that the state faces in the future, but each is also an opportunity,” Vigue said.
Councilor Hal Wheeler said he thought Vigue’s speech was energizing for the council.
“I was very much impressed with the positive emphasis that he made on the assets that we have as a community and state,” Wheeler said. The councilor also praised Vigue’s candidness in saying that the state hasn’t done enough to maximize the resource that it has.
As for whether Vigue’s talk had the feel of a stump speech, Wheeler didn’t want to speculate.
“I think he fully understands that by the nature of government, he can be much more effective in the private sector than he could as governor,” Wheeler said. “Having said that, he would be one hell of a great governor in terms of establishing a vision for the state.”
Councilor Cary Weston agreed that Vigue’s appearance was beneficial to the council for any number of reasons, but he had reservations as well.
“I felt it was outside the scope of what the City Council should be doing,” Weston said of inviting Vigue to speak to the council one on one. “Under certain circumstances, specifically our arena proposal, my concern with him being there was the message we’re sending to other contractors. What’s to stop other contractors from saying ‘When am I going to get a meeting?’”