Steve Perry - Sargent

Steve Perry

Business Development

Q: What is your job title with Sargent? What are your main responsibilities?
A: I’m the business development manager. For the most part, I work with private sector clients that are either looking to start doing business in Maine or expand their existing operations within this state. I also work with renewable energy companies, mining businesses, and certain other market segments like commercial.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you typically face in your role?
A: My main challenge is regulatory oversight. Helping developers come into this market and clear all of the hurdles related to legislation and environmental regulations is never an easy process.

Q: What were you doing in your career before you came to Sargent?
A: I started working at Sargent on May 5, 1975. I graduated from the University of Maine on May 4. My first day with Sargent was the very next day, and I’ve been here ever since.

Q: What do you enjoy about your job?
A: The nice thing about construction is that every project is unique. There are so many challenges, and I really enjoy solving problems for our clients, whether that means meeting the client’s budget or schedule, or helping them meet their environmental regulations. I’m the type of person that enjoys variety, and I also like to see things get built that will last for generations, so construction has always been a great industry for me.

Q: What is it about Sargent that makes this a great place to work?
A: The reason Sargent has lasted so long is that we have the ability to pivot between market segments based on industry trends. If you follow the history of the company, Sargent cut its teeth on heavy highway projects when the interstate came up through Maine. Our leaders at the time recognized that work wouldn’t always be there, so we looked into other markets.

In the 1980s, the Clean Water Act moved us into infrastructure work and wastewater treatment plants. Then, we moved into landfill remediation and big-box commercial projects, and today we’re transitioning into the renewable energy sector. Most companies don’t have that level of flexibility and adaptability.

The employee ownership program is also important for Sargent. To be successful at any company, you have to treat it as your own, and now Sargent actually is our own company, in a sense. When Herb offered for the employees to become the owners of the company, it was a win-win for everyone. I’ve seen a lot of other companies lose the fire in their belly when they get to the third or fourth generation of employees, and you don’t see those companies around anymore, whereas Sargent is going strong.

Q: The construction industry in general has an aging workforce. How do you think we could do a better job of attracting young people?
A: I think we’re doing a pretty good job of that with the Sargent Construction Academy, but you have to drill down even deeper than that. We need to get into the schools and start talking about construction at an early age — maybe somewhere around the fifth grade.

I think sometimes social media doesn’t accurately portray what construction is all about, but if we focus on the technology, we can make this industry more appealing to younger kids. With the GPS, drones, and software we use, it’s a really exciting industry compared to the general idea of just a bunch of guys in a ditch with shovels. We need to start young and get out there to tell our story.

Q: Is there anyone in your life that you’ve considered to be a mentor?
A: There have been a number of gentlemen in my life that I’ve viewed as mentors. Through the years, I’ve really looked up to several superintendents I’ve worked for. Jim Sargent and his father, Herb, also had a significant impact on my life.

Back when I started here, Herb was about to step down and hand the reins to Jim, but he was still highly involved in the bidding process. The insight and wisdom that he used to pass down during those late nights putting projects together was so valuable. He had the ability to inspire folks to work because they felt like he was working beside them. The Sargent family as a whole has been very inspiring to work for. You just want to get up and do the best you can every day for these people.

Q: How do you like to spend your free time when you’re not at work?
A: I live in a community about 45 minutes north of our corporate offices, and it’s located on a spring-fed lake. I love to downhill ski, ride ATVs, and water ski. I’m also fortunate enough to have my daughter, son-in-law, and three grandkids living right next door. We just love spending our time outdoors, enjoying everything that Maine has to offer.