Case Studies

E.L. Shea Inc.

Shaping Downeast Maine and Surrounding Communities since 1926

For almost a century, E.L. Shea Inc. (E.L. Shea) has been serving Downeast Maine’s commercial, institutional and residential markets with turnkey construction services and a familiar family face. “We perform a wide range of building projects,” reveals Ken Shea, third generation co-owner and president of E.L. Shea. “With two licensed, in-house engineers, much of our work is design-build. We can do anything from a water treatment plant, an aquaculture facility and schools to high-end residential buildings.”

The company’s versatility stems from a longstanding staff and more than 90 years of industry experience. “My grandfather, Emmons Lawrence Shea, founded E.L. Shea in April 1926 in Ellsworth, Maine,” recalls Ken.

Supporting Local Communities

After returning from World War 1, Emmons worked on a variety of construction projects with his then-employer, H. Blaine Davis. At 31-years-old, Emmons decided the time was right to establish his own company and he purchased the construction division of H. Blaine Davis.E.L. Shea Inc.

Following E.L. Shea’s inception and the great Ellsworth fire of 1933, the company began to assist in rebuilding the community. Partnering with Elbridge Milliken, a masonry and concrete contracting company, the duo was able to make a noticeable difference. The Ellsworth City Hall, H.C. Austin and the town’s Masonic Hall are just a few of the still standing tokens of E.L. Shea’s early involvement.

Although E.L. Shea remains heavily involved in Ellsworth, Ken notes the company has expanded its reach into surrounding counties and communities. “We generally stay in the eastern Maine area,” details Ken. “We are still a fairly small company with about 40 employees and we’re limited to Hancock, southern Penobscot, Waldo and Washington counties; we don’t travel to Augusta or Portland. We’ve remained small and we have very little employee turnover, unlike other larger companies.”

Continuing a Family Tradition

With an experienced, longstanding team, E.L. Shea’s employees are just as much family as the generations of Sheas still involved in the business. “Our employees and our family ownership set us apart from the next company,” says Ken. “My brother Stephen and I have been in this business nearly our whole lives. I started working with my grandfather in 1959 while I was still in high school. After finishing grad school in 1969, I came back to work part-time and help Stephen, my father, Robert, as well as my uncle Phil, run the company. I taught in the department of civil engineering at UMO until 1975, when I returned to E. L. Shea on a full time basis.”

When Ken returned to E.L. Shea, he brought along his civil engineering education. “My background is in structural and geotechnical engineering,” he reveals. Ken’s son, Robert “Rob” E. Shea II, also has a graduate degree in structural engineering and is licensed as a professional engineer in Maine, continuing the family tradition.

Ken and Stephen continue to help run E.L. Shea as the duo has done for over 40 years. “We’re in the process of transferring the ownership to the next generation,” adds Ken. “Rob now manages well-over one-half of our projects and Steve’s daughter, Missy, serves as the business manager.”

Leaving a Mark on Maine

While the next generation steps into the family-run business, Ken says E.L. Shea continues to focus on comprehensive service. “We have the financial stability and bonding capacity to move forward,” he details. “We can also offer the combination of engineering and construction services that most contractors in the area cannot provide.”

E.L. Shea self-performs several trades, including drywall installation, structural steel erection, as well as concrete and painting. However, the company will sometimes subcontract said-trades if the pricing is more favorable to the client, and quality can be assured.

“We have a hydraulic crane, several lifts, telehandlers and some site work equipment, all of which help to contain costs,” Ken continues. “We also do a wide range of custom cabinetry through our woodworking shop.”

Ken goes on to explain that – for the most part – the company only subcontracts traditional trades, such as mechanical and electrical. “We have great working relationships with other area subcontractors,” he continues. “We don’t trade subcontractors after the time set for receiving proposals and that has earned us the respect of area subcontractors.”

From new, green buildings for Bar Harbor’s College of the Atlantic to ground-up research facilities for The Jackson Laboratory or a beautiful residence on scenic Mount Desert Island, every project E.L. Shea tackles receives the same attention to detail and quality service.

“We are currently constructing a renovation/addition for the Castine Historical Society and recently completed a large-scale aquaculture center for the University of Maine at their research site in Franklin, a major commercial bank project in Ellsworth, and the complete Camp Beech Cliff facility on Mount Desert Island,” details Ken.

For over 87 years, E.L. Shea has been shaping Ellsworth and Downeast Maine with complete design-build construction manager or bid-build services for a range of applications. From preconstruction and value engineering to construction, green building and post construction, E.L. Shea Inc. is there every step of the way.

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Spring 2018

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