Gilbane, Inc. History
Providence, Rhode Island 02903
Telephone: (401) 456-5800
Fax: (401) 456-5936
Sales: $2.2 billion (1999 est.)
NAIC: 233320 Commercial and Institutional Building Construction
Gilbane: An organization of superior employees dedicated to providing quality construction, real estate development and related services. Key Dates:
- Gilbane is founded by William Gilbane.
- Gilbane experiences growth due to World War II contracts.
- Gilbane, Inc. establishes Gilbane Properties (GPI).
- Gilbane completes construction of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
- Gilbane manages construction of the Winter Olympic facilities in Lake Placid, New York.
- Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Gilbane dies, and is replaced by William Gilbane; Paul Choquette becomes president.
- William Gilbane, Sr., dies; fourth generation family member Paul Choquette assumes positions of CEO and chairman.
- Gilbane partners with technology firms to create connectivity solutions; company is awarded third consecutive Build America award.
- Gilbane focuses on pharmaceutical, healthcare, and educational construction.
Gilbane, Inc., located in Providence, Rhode Island, is a privately owned company that has been in the same family for over 125 years. Gilbane is one of the oldest and largest building companies in the United States and has two subsidiaries: Gilbane Building Company and Gilbane Properties, Inc. Together these businesses serve the industrial, institutional, and commercial markets, offering everything from financing and planning to development, management, and construction. A member of the Forbes 500 list of private companies, Gilbane also ranks as the fifth largest general building contractor in the nation.
1873 to the 1960s: Small Beginnings to Big Growth
In 1873 William Gilbane was an Irish immigrant and a talented carpenter. He used his talents to work for others until he decided to begin a company of his own. Unknown to him, that decision secured a future for the next four generations of his family. He founded Gilbane, Inc. in Providence, Rhode Island, as a small family-run carpentry and general contracting business serving the local area.
The company grew steadily and passed to the second and then third generation of the Gilbane family. The third generation of the family, brothers Thomas and William, helped the company to greater expansion during their tenure. Both 1933 graduates of Brown University, they led the company through a tremendous expansion period.
During World War II, Gilbane prospered, like many other U.S. companies, because of the war effort. For Gilbane, the growth came in the form of Navy contracts, and that growth spurred on additional success in the coming years.
1970s-80s: Diversifying for Success
In 1970 Gilbane, Inc. established Gilbane Properties (GPI) as the subsidiary to handle project development, financing, and real estate. GPI was designed to work with customers from start to finish on building projects. The subsidiary's specialties included alternative capitalization financing, needs analysis, negotiation of economic incentives, ownership transactions, debt/equity underwriting, and build-to-suit options. The corporation's other subsidiary, Gilbane Building Company, continued to be a part of high profile projects such as the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., in 1976, and the 1980 Winter Olympics facilities in Lake Placid, New York.
In 1981, Thomas F. Gilbane died at the age of 70, leaving his brother, William to lead the company through the next years. The firm helped build everything from skyscrapers to memorials and sometimes even helped build a bridge to better communication. In 1983, Gilbane assisted in a major economic summit conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. Seven heads of state, some 1,500 guests, and up to 6,000 members of the media met to discuss the economy, and the Gilbane Building Company set up the press facilities for the event at William and Mary College.
1990s: Recession and Recovery
The early part of the 1990s were a difficult time for the building industry, due to the interrelated causes of recession and loss of building contracts. Yet by 1992, though the building industry was still struggling to recover, Gilbane Building Company saw a substantial increase in new business, partially due to high-profile projects such as the international terminal at O'Hare International Airport and the renovation project at Chicago Public Schools. In an interview with Crain's Chicago Business, Joseph F. Clare, vice-president of Gilbane Building Company noted that competition was more intense than a decade before, but Gilbane succeeded in weathering the increased level of competition.
In 1996, 26 years after the death of his brother and business partner, Thomas Gilbane, William Gilbane, Sr., chairman and former CEO of Gilbane, Inc., died. He was 87 years old. The reins of the company passed to yet another descendant of the company's founder, Paul J. Choquette, Jr. Choquette joined the company in 1969 and had graduated from Brown University and Harvard Law School.
By 1997 the building market had finally recovered and contractors were enjoying a growth period. From 1995 to 1996, there was an increase of 15.7 percent in revenues in the industry. In 1996, Gilbane was listed fourth on the list of the top 50 U.S. general building contractors, behind Centex Construction Group, The Turner Corporation, and Bovis, Inc.
Gilbane Building Company Senior Vice-President Alfred K. Potter was quoted in an article in Engineering News-Record about the industry's recent growth. 'I'm optimistic about the future because the market has the fundamentals--economics, corporate profitability, demographics&mdashø continue with strength for the next couple of years,' he said.
One of the major challenges for the Gilbane Building Company was communication. In 1995, Gilbane did not even have voice-mail in the corporate offices. However, when it came time to evaluate and plan a state-of-the-art communication system, Gilbane explored the options and then partnered with other companies to come up with an innovative solution to connectivity.
With 21 offices across the nation and 150 different job sites each year, Gilbane needed a way for employees and customers to communicate effectively. The company partnered with another Rhode Island corporation, Atrion Networking Corp., to meet its needs. With the installation of the new system, job site managers now had easy access to PCs and could swiftly send and receive everything from voice to forms to Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings.
In 1997, Gilbane Building Company received the Build America Award from the Associated General Contractors of America for its work on the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland. The next year, Gilbane was awarded the prize again for the design and construction of the Wallens Ridge State Prison.
In 1999, Gilbane Building Company, with $2.2 billion in revenues, was ranked fifth on the annual list of general building contractors as selected by Engineering News Record. In the same magazine, the company was ranked first in the pharmaceutical plants and research and development laboratory market, second in education and corrections, and in the top ten in several other areas, including sports facilities and government offices.
Also in 1999, Gilbane was again awarded the Build America Award by the Associated General Contractors of America. The award honored the company for work on the historic renovation of the New Jersey Statehouse dome.
2000: High Profile Projects Continue
In 2000, Robert V. Gilbane was president of Gilbane Properties (GPI). The subsidiary continued to focus on helping businesses plan commercial real estate needs. Gilbane Building Company had a variety of projects planned and focused on several aspects of construction, including pharmaceutical, healthcare, and educational facilities.
In an article on Gilbane's web site, Chairman and CEO Paul J. Choquette, Jr., said, 'Making a positive impact on the communities where we work is a driving force for Gilbane employees. Having an impact on the schools that will educate this country's next generation is a very satisfying feeling.' Gilbane Building Company was involved with construction projects for 31 school districts, integrating the buildings with networks for the information age.
Gilbane continued to work with the nation's leading businesses, and its client list included eight of the most prominent Fortune 500 companies, namely General Motors Corporation, Exxon Corporation, General Electric Company, IBM, AT & T Corp., Mobil Corporation, Chrysler Corporation, and Pfizer, Inc. The company also worked with government agencies, universities, and sports organizations to offer innovative solutions to construction needs.
Gilbane, Inc. remained involved in all sectors of the construction and real estate industries including industrial, institutional, and commercial. The company had a history of steady growth and innovation, and could be expected to meet whatever challenges loomed ahead in the new century.
Principal Subsidiaries: Gilbane Building Company; Gilbane Properties, Inc.
Principal Divisions: Advanced Technologies Sector; Relocation Management Group.
Principal Competitors: McCarthy; Turner Corporation; Whiting-Turner; Centex Construction Group; Bovis, Inc.
- Alexander, Erin, 'Builders Feeling Pinch of Economy's Squeeze,' Crain's Chicago Business, November 5, 1990, p. 23.
- 'Contractor Passes Reins to Parent Firm,' Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 2, 1998.
- 'Contractor's Chairman William Gilbane Dies,' Engineering News Record, January 15, 1996, p. 13.
- 'County Chooses Company to Oversee Building Reds Stadium,' Associated Press, April 3, 2000.
- 'Gilbane Fights DBE Charge,' Engineering News-Record, April 24, 1986, p. 64.
- 'Gilbane Fraud Suit Dropped,' Engineering News-Record, November 6, 1986, p. 111.
- Holsendolph, Ernest, 'Summit Caterer: Big Business,' New York Times, March 31, 1983, p. D1.
- Long, Timothy, 'Building the Foundation for Connectivity's Future,' Enterprise Partner, April 12, 1999, p. 34.
- Mendez, Adolfo, 'Building Contractors Mirror Slow Economy,' Crain's Chicago Business, November 2, 1992, p. 21.
- Parrillo, Bill, 'Bill Gilbane, Sr.: A Builder of the Tangible and Intangible,' Providence Journal-Bulletin, January 10, 1996, p. 1C.
- 'Thomas Gilbane Dies; Industry Leader,' Engineering News-Record, December 17, 1981, p. 143.
- Tulacz, Gary J., and Angelo, William J., 'Builders Finding Modest-Sized Jobs in Immodest Quantities,' Engineering News-Record, May 26, 1997, p. 90.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 34. St. James Press, 2000.