BREWER — Nickerson & O’Day has done many projects in the greater Bangor area, from the new Bangor Police Department to Hermon High School to projects at Bangor International Airport and the University of Maine in Orono.
In 2012, under a $33 million contract, Nickerson & O’Day finished the 108,000-square-foot Regional Training Institute for the Maine Army National Guard in Bangor. Last December, the company completed The Brewer Community Center and the neighboring 32-unit senior housing project, Chamberlain Place.
The company’s current projects include a new Emera Maine (formerly Bangor Hydro-Electric Co.) operations center in Hampden; a three-story, 30,000-square-foot engineering center at Castine’s Maine Maritime Academy; and a $2.5 million expansion of the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport terminal in Trenton.
Nickerson & O’Day is based in a small office building located between the Brewer Armory and the Brewer Airport. “We’re not very flashy; we’re kind of boring, but we’re financially solvent,” said Nickerson & O’Day President and CEO Karl Ward. “We stick with what we know. We don’t like surprises; we try to think and listen in the owner’s best interests. It’s a formula that works. People trust us.”
Construction project manager Gerry O’Day and estimator Leroy Nickerson established the firm in 1952; their first project was restoring Dead River Company’s Bangor offices for $2,174.22, equal to about $18,500 today.
Having lived through The Great Depression, Nickerson believed they should make do with what they have. “If somebody broke a claw hammer, he wouldn’t let them throw it away because you could still pound nails with it, and if you did your job right, you wouldn’t have to pull them out, anyway,” Ward said,
He found such a hammer in the building’s basement; the find inspired him to create The One-Clawed Hammer Award to reinforce Nickerson’s view. “It goes to the project manager or supervisor who does the most with the least,” Ward said.
Of the many buildings that Nickerson & O’Day has completed, Ward said that people are born, baptized, educated, made safe, married and memorialized in those buildings. A memorable and moving project for Ward was the Brewer Public Safety Building, built in 2008. One winter day when fog wafted in the air like smoke, the sight of the building’s steel beams reminded him of those beams left standing after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on The World Trade Center.
This imagery influenced Ward to find pieces of structural steel from the Twin Towers to add to the Brewer building. Ward, Brewer Police Sgt. Rich Smith, and Brewer Fire Capt. Brent Melvin sifted through the remnants stored in an airplane hangar at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.
Together, they found the twisted piece of steel that now hangs in the fire engine bay of the Brewer Public Safety Building. Two other fragments, a 6-foot steel beam and a piece of aluminum sheeting from outside one of the towers, are in the building’s museum.
“It’s something we will never forget; it’s indicative of the bravery of the people who serve us,” Ward said.
These and similar sentiments have led Ward and Nickerson & O’Day to give back to the communities where they have worked. Before Thanksgiving 2013, Nickerson & O’Day donated a flatbed truckload of food to the Brewer Area Food Pantry that the company had renovated. The pantry serves nearly 1,000 local households.
At the Brewer Community Center and childcare center named after former local daycare owner Jean Lyford, Nickerson & O’Day installed the plaque in the front hallway for free. “We realized it was going to be a special moment in her (Lyford’s) life, and it will mean a lot to the people who work so hard at the Brewer Housing Authority to provide housing for needy people,” said Ward.
His future goals include an update to the company’s website, www.nickoday.com, and a possible future branch in Portland for a more statewide presence. He plans to keep the Brewer office, the corporate identity, and its core philosophies, while remaining involved in the community.
“This was a tiny business when I started here [22 years ago], and now it’s six times larger,” Ward said.
He also has another office in mind: the Republican Party recently accepted his candidacy for Maine House District 131 (Otis, Dedham, Orland, Penobscot, Verona Island, Prospect, and Stockton Springs).
“There’s a reason why Nickerson & O’Day has no debt, and that’s because I’m tighter than the bark on a tree, and I watch every penny. People can expect the same sort of attitude down there” in Augusta, Ward said.
Sen. Susan Collins and Maine Senator Ed Youngblood have endorsed him, as has former state senator Richard Rosen, head of The Office of Policy and Management. Ward said that he will listen to the people’s perspectives and create solutions to their problems for the greater good.
“Geez, it’s not a whole lot different than what I do here” in Brewer, he said.