PITTSFIELD, Maine — Cianbro Corp. recently was named to the AARP Best Employer for Workers Over 50 list, but that came as no surprise to its employees.
Cianbro, which has its corporate headquarters in Pittsfield, was 24th of 50 U.S. companies on the list, and was the only company from Maine to be chosen. It was the first time Cianbro applied for the honor.
“I think anytime you get recognized, it’s wonderful. We’re pretty humbled,” said Michael Bennett, vice president of Human Resources and Health, Safety and Environment.
Bennett said that 34 percent of Cianbro’s workforce is older than 50, and the average retention for workers is 17 years.
Jane Margesson, AARP Maine communications director, said most companies that make the list are related to health care. She also said AARP received 140 applications for the award.
“It’s quite rare, actually [to have a company make it on its first try],” she said.
Cianbro’s older workers seemed to feel the award was justified.
“It’s been a very good company to work for,” said Ed LePage, mechanical craft training coordinator. “It’s almost like it’s being part of a big family.”
LePage started working for Cianbro in 1971. After 40 years, he’s still happy to come to work.
About seven years ago, LePage had to do something other than construction because of the toll it was taking on his body. He said Cianbro was happy to oblige.
“I needed a change in venue and they didn’t hesitate to take me out of the field and put me in the training department,” said 62-year-old LePage. “They showed me that they really cared about me and they were looking out for my best interest.”
Having experienced workers turn to being teachers has been an asset for Cianbro.
“They do a tremendous amount of training,” said Rita Bubar, who has worked for Cianbro for 34 years. “We do so much in-house training of all kinds. We’ve trained hundreds, if not thousands, of people in welding [for example].”
Bubar, 65, took a step back from full-time work as the corporate human resources manager in July. She now works two days a week.
LePage said he’d like to keep working at the company until the usual retirement age, even though Cianbro allows employees to retire at 55.
“I love what I’m doing now,” he said. “They’ve afforded me the opportunity to train. As long as I’m healthy enough to continue, I hope I can go to 65½ [years old]. That’s what I’ll shoot for.”
He’d even work after his retirement.
“If they needed someone with the expertise that I have, I would come back on a part-time basis because of how they’ve treated me over the years,” LePage said.
That attitude has been beneficial to the younger workers.
“I think that mentor-mentee relationship is really invaluable to me,” said 27-year-old Erica Caldwell, who works in recruiting. “It’s a fail-proof way of integrating new talent into the team.
“I think it’s natural for a senior person to pass on that knowledge to create a lasting legacy in ensuring future success of the company,” she said.
Bubar said Cianbro’s benefits, which include dental, vision, 401(k) and retirement, among other things, also make the company valuable to employees young and old. Cianbro also has a college tuition reimbursement program, which is something she took advantage of.
“I went to Thomas College [in Waterville] at nights for three years, which Cianbro paid for,” she said. “They’ve always been supportive and encouraging in helping people advance.”
She said the company is supportive of employees who are dealing with more personal matters too.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and I had to undergo a year and a half of therapy,” said Bubar. “Cianbro and my team was so supportive. They have tremendous support of our medical leaves and our disabilities programs.”
Each employee also owns a piece of the company, which LePage says makes employees work just a little harder.
“[When] you’re an owner, you have a stake in it and you have a say in it,” said LePage about the profiteering plan.
In the end, Bennett said the success of Cianbro has been a result of the way it handles it employees.
“It’s all about people. It’s how you treat people. It’s what you provide to them and understanding their needs,” he said.