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Female Construction Company
Female Construction Company Owner Stands Out in a Male Dominated Field
Business West - Special Focus-Women in Business by Marisa Giannetti
Carol Campbell, owner of Chicopee Industrial Contractors (CIC) stands out not because of her gender, but rather because of her success in a highly competitive field. Preaching and promoting teamwork, she has built the company into one of the leaders in the area of moving machinery and companies.
When you see one of Carol Campbell employees pick up a broom and start sweeping the floor of the cavernous headquarters of Chicopee Industrial Contractors (CIC) Inc. don’t make any assumption about his or her job title.
The individual in question could be a maintenance worker, a director of operations, or a secretary. The 50-year-old owner and president of the engineering and relocation consulting firm, was told long ago that putting a broom in your hand and starting to sweep can clear your mind for creative problem-solving. And so, nearly everyone at CIC sweeps.
During a recent visit to the company’s offices on North Chicopee St., (the former brewery for Hampden Ale,) Campbell proudly pointed to a sweeping employee and announced, in a loud yell above the din from the trucks, forklifts, and front loaders: “He’s not just sweeping, he’s thinking.” Clean floors are not the only mark of Campbell’s business. Here, people don’t talk about teamwork, they practice it. Borrowing lessons from her father, former Umass football coach Victor Fusia, she created an environment where everyone is pulling in the same direction – literally and figuratively.
Building Loyalty - As a woman in a business traditionally dominated by men, Campbell definitely stands out – not so much because of her gender (although she readily admits that the industry’s view of a “rigger,” as they’re known for, is of a large, burly man) but because of her success. CIC is one of the region’s leading industrial contracting companies, which specialize in rigging, millwrighting, heavy hauling, plant relocation and other services, primarily to the manufacturing industry. And not surprisingly, it’s the only one owned by a woman. CIC’s clients include American Saw & Mfg., Spalding Sports Worldwide, Danaher Corp., Jen-Coat, Judd Wire Inc., and Webco Engineering.
Industrial Specialists such as CIC provide a wide variety of services involved in the relocation and installation of individual pieces of machinery and entire plants. Such services include rigging and machinery moving, transportation, industrial construction (from concrete foundations, pits, trenches, machine bases, mechanical installations, and water pollution control specialists), millwrighting, and temporary plant help. To illustrate what the company does, Campbell took her interview with Business West on the road, to Leoni Wire Inc., a German-owned wire manufacturer with 20 plants worldwide, including one on Griffith Road in Chicopee. There, CIC recently dug a 100-foot-wide hole into the concrete floor of the Leoni plant. Inside the pit will sit three $100,000 wire-washing machines (for a lack of a better term, explained Leoni Engineering Manager Roger Doucet) that will clean the wire with a foamy solution of soap and water before it is shipped to Japan for use in various electronic components.
“One of my favorite pastimes is to go around at a cocktail party, after everyone has had a few drinks and bet them a $1,000 that they can’t guess what I do for a living,” said Campbell. Clearly, another one of her favorite pastimes is work itself. CIC’s 22 employees work on a 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. schedule, but it’s not surprising to find Campbell and her crew burning the lights far into the night. A lot of that overtime has less to do with wages (as it would in a manufacturing plant) and more to do with company loyalty. Indeed, 70 % of the CIC’s employees have been with the company since Campbell started it in 1992 with her then-husband, John Ramsay, who no longer has any ties to the business. That loyalty is rewarded with – and in many ways inspired by – a benefit package that includes profit-sharing and a company-matching 401(k) plan, and a company-wide commitment to workplace, education that emanates from the top down.
Before forming CIC, Campbell worked in the marketing and development department at the Umass Fine Arts Center. Ramsay was an engineer whose own company suffered from the economic downturn of the late 1980s and early ‘90s. Campbell provided the capital to get CIC off the ground and assumed the title of president, while Ramsay served as company engineer. Campbell told Business West that she went about learning the ins and outs of her new industry much as she learned the game of football and, subsequently, the game of life, from her father, the university’s winningest football coach. “It sounds very cliché, but you’ve got to remember that I was a very spoiled child from a very Italian family,” she said. “Yet, here was my dad telling me that every person on the team, from the quarterback to the waterboy was essential to that team. “And if you treat that team as a family, with the importance and value that you give every member of your family,” she continued, “then that team will win and that family will win as well.”
As president of CIC, Campbell has translated her father’s philosophy and her educational background into a unique corporate culture in an industry that is wed to the fickle manufacturing sector and has more than its share of downturns, particularly in 1995 and 1998, when CIC had as few as 15 employees.
Things have improved for CIC, and Campbell recently applied for and received a $37,400 grant from the Mass. Dept. of Employment and Training (DET) to cross-train her employees in hard and soft skills. That money will be used to train three additional truckers to earn their Class A Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDL) from the state Registry of Motor Vehicles. It will also train more company workers to learn in-house welding skills; and it will establish a mentoring program linking long-time employees with entry-level workers. The “soft” part of the grant education program will offer a series of classes to company employees to learn better communication skills to improve customer services; to become better problem-solvers, and to learn leadership skills.
To further foster teamwork and also recognize excellence, Campbell instituted a “10th-Player Award” (also borrowed from the sports world), given annually to CIC’s outstanding employee of the year. The first recipient, said Campbell, was Cal Denson, a long-time CIC employee who she says has become both role model and mentor. As Campbell toured the Leoni Wire site, she came across Denson, in the pit that had recently been carved – sweeping. “He’s the one who always told me: ‘Don’t ever stand still…never keep your hands in your pockets…and always pick up a broom and do some sweeping, because it allows you to think,” she said. For the past decade, she’s been sweeping, and thinking, her way to the top.