Was it predestined for Clay Maker, Co-President of Penobscot General Contractors, to carry on his family’s lineage of construction? Or, was it his own personal passion for the industry? It’s a little of both.
Generations of history
Clay was born and raised in North Yarmouth. His grandfather was one of the four founders of a local major construction company. “Growing up, it was always prevalent in the family,” Clay recalls.
Which may explain why his high school job was a little different than most. Clay started a driveway sealing company in high school, where his mother drove him to his first job. “I liked lining up the contracts, managing the jobs, seeing the finished product, and working with customers,” he says.
“It was a really rudimentary business, but seeing what it took to run it got my gears turning.” Clay hired some friends, worked hard, and was able to turn a 50%-60% profit margin. Clay ran his company throughout high school and during the first couple years of college before he eventually sold it.
“When I went to college and I didn’t really know what to do, I studied construction management since that seemed like a good path for me,” Clay explains. He earned his degree at The University of Denver with a combined Construction Management/Real Estate Development Program major. During college, he had a few internships at the construction company that his grandfather had founded, and it quickly turned into full-time employment after graduation.
“I think it was kind of predetermined that I might end up in this industry. It wasn’t predetermined that I’d end up doing what I was doing, but it turned out that I really liked the industry, and I liked the work. It all came together that way,” Clay says.
Clay jumped headfirst into the industry after college. Over the years, Clay’s experience includes over $600 million in construction, renovation, and development projects in a variety of market sectors including healthcare, multi-family, labs and clean manufacturing facilities, and commercial office buildings. He also spent a portion of his career as an Owner’s Representative for major healthcare development projects.
Early in his career, Clay met Jon DiCentes, his Co-President at Penobscot General Contractors.
Jon and Clay were in the midst of conversations regarding a reunion to form a healthcare focused team at an existing company, but that idea soon got much bigger.
Penobscot General Contractors
Around the same time Clay and Jon started discussing the future, Clay had started preliminary discussions with the former owner of The Penobscot Company about a potential buyout agreement.
“I was 28 years old and there was a good opportunity. I knew there would be some challenges as a young guy taking over a construction company, but I asked Jon if he would be interested in partnering up to buy the company,” says Clay. “As you can imagine, it took a lot of conversations and strategy sessions, but we both saw the potential opportunity, and we decided to do it together.”
After a full year of “kicking tires,” they signed the documents in December 2019.
Today, as Co-President, Clay oversees the general business management of the company. He wears lots of hats and works closely with Jon on many facets of the business. He helps lead business development, fosters close relationships with clients, architects, and other industry professionals, handles much of the pre-construction work across the team and budgets, and shares in project oversight responsibilities.
“As a growing company, we do whatever needs to be done on a day-to-day basis to keep the company moving forward,” Clay says.
It’s all about the team
“Construction is a very team-oriented industry that needs a lot of people to make the project happen, both internal to the company and external. It’s all about maintaining relationships and being able to create partnerships that are beneficial for all parties involved. I really enjoy this part of the business,” Clay shares.
This is especially important in this industry that has a history of distrust between owners and contractors.
“At PGC, we’re trying to fix that. We want to get rid of this adversarial relationship, and the misconception that contractors are always trying to take advantage of the owners. We aim to make it a complete team effort with the design team, the ownership group, us, and whoever else may be involved in the project,” Clay says.
“We have an open book philosophy here, and we’re always as transparent and honest as we can possibly be. This not only makes everyone feel comfortable at the table, but it’s what sets PGC apart.”
Clay also thinks the company’s shared passion for the pre-planning stage is another thing that makes them unique. “We really thrive when we get in early and provide input from the start. These project life cycles often have 8-12 months of planning and pre-construction. Before we even put a shovel in the ground, we’ve been part of these projects for a long time. With our stamp on the project early, we help ensure it’s cost-effective and has less chance for unwanted surprises.”
The future is bright
There’s good things up ahead for the Maine construction industry.
In addition to many housing projects in the queue, Clay thinks the recent trend of tech companies relocating to Portland is promising news for the area. It’s a place that people want to live and work, and companies have recognized that and have started to invest there.
“With the current workload in the construction industry, clients are going away from the ultra-competitive ‘low bid wins’ philosophy and are more focused on selecting the right contractor for their project. This means the contractors who can collaborate and strategize, attract the required workforce to the project, meet schedules and budgets, thinks outside the box to combat external market forces, and maintains good relationships from start to finish. That’s where PGC thrives,” Clay adds.
Now in its new office in Falmouth, PGC is ready for what comes next, even with the many current external forces (i.e., interest rates, material pricing, labor shortages) at play.
“I think we’re all going to buckle up and find out how this will all come together. But, for right now, I have a very positive outlook for the southern Maine market,” he says.
What will be the constant north star in times of change? Clay says its PGC’s commitment to its people. “Our values and how we treat our people will remain steady as we continue to grow. It always has been and always will be all about people.”
Want PGC on board for your project?
At Penobscot General Contractors, we don’t just rely on our 50 years of success.
As industry leaders for five decades, we’re most proud of our values – people come first. Especially in this industry, people make the projects possible, and we will always prioritize our team and our partners. With a commitment to collaboration, transparency, and respect for everyone at our table, it’s our long-standing relationships that will continue to move us forward.
Known for our commitment to quality and the immense talent of our team, we’re construction managers with self-perform building experience that can help make any project successful. From Maine, to New England, or much further away, we’re the team you need most.
Working together, we’ll do more.