BREWER, Maine — One employee at Tozier’s Market on South Main Street gave a thumbs up Thursday when asked about the new contract announced this week for Cianbro’s Eastern Manufacturing Facility, which is just down the street.
“Bring it on,” said store clerk Melanie Lounsbury. “We’ve been waiting.”
When the plant is operating, there is a line at the sandwich counter, she said. “It’s great [news].”
Store owner Audrey Atherton noted that business has been much slower since the last contract ended a couple of months ago, and she expects it to pick up once work at the facility gets under way.
Cianbro has won a contract to construct 22 electrical building modules in Brewer for Brazil-based Vale, a mining company that is constructing a nickel processing plant in Long Harbour, Newfoundland.
“We believe this is the beginning of much more to come,” Cianbro Chairman and CEO Peter Vigue said Thursday at a press conference at the Eastern Manufacturing Facility. Vale has mining operations all over the globe, he added.
Cianbro has been in negotiations with officials from Vale and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador for about two years, Vigue said. They have visited Maine and Cianbro officials have traveled north to the Avalon Peninsula on the island of Newfoundland, he said.
“It’s a great day for them and a great day for us,” Vigue said.
The project already is under way, with engineers working on designs for the electrical rooms and Cianbro officials ordering supplies, Vigue said, adding that the 100-plus employees needed to construct the units are scheduled to get to work in November.
The structures, which will include transformers, switch gears and major electrical components, will be one to three stories high and will be loaded onto barges and shipped down the Penobscot River and up the coast to the Canadian province.
Workers in Pittsfield, where Cianbro is headquartered, also will have more work because “we’ll be fabricating the steel” there, Vigue said.
The competition was tough for the contract and Vigue said he thinks Cianbro’s Brewer site was chosen because it is a state-of-the-art facility with an abundance of skilled, hardworking employees.
“It makes us very competitive,” he said.
The South Brewer module facility, which opened in early 2008, completed its first contract to build 52 refinery modules for a Texas company in June. Cianbro had already begun laying off or transferring employees from the Brewer site in April.
On Thursday, the plant was virtually deserted and only a few dozen cars were in the parking lot.
“It’s the calm before the storm,” Cianbro Vice President Joe Cote, who is the Eastern Manufacturing Facility’s general manager, said at the end of the press conference.
City officials also are delighted with the news.
“We’re ecstatic,” D’arcy Main-Boyington, Brewer’s economic development director, said just before the press conference began. “We knew it was only a matter of time. We believe in Cianbro.”
Tanya Pereira, Brewer’s economic development deputy director, said she had no doubt that Cianbro would secure another contract, even in these hard economic times, and “put people back to work in Brewer.”
City councilors, at their monthly meeting next week, are expected to authorize the company’s option to purchase the plant’s 41 acres, which Cianbro has leased since deciding in late 2007 to change the rundown Eastern Fine Paper Co. mill into a facility to construct modules.
“It’s good timing,” Pereira said. “It gives them more permanence and flexibility.”
Vigue and Cote both said they can’t wait until employees are back on the job in Brewer.
Atherton is one local business owner who also can’t wait.
“It’s very good news,” she said of the new project. “It’s good for the local economy all around.”