a construction powerhouse
Building with both the client and expansion in mind
In the vibrant and competitive construction world, companies stand the test of time through innovation, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to excellence. One such enterprise is CIC Construction, a Puerto Rican firm that has steadfastly grown from humble beginnings into a multi-sector powerhouse.
In the words of its President, Gustavo Hermida, “CIC Construction started as a general contractor from Puerto Rico in 1983. We were a small company primarily focused on pharmaceutical projects throughout Puerto Rico.” With initial annual volumes hovering around $4 or $5 million, CIC was a diminutive player in an industry of titans.
Despite the constraints of its early years, the company thrived in the pharmaceutical construction sector. The mid-90s, however, marked a significant shift in their operating environment. “In 1996, Puerto Rico had a tax advantage for the pharmaceutical industry, known as Section 936. The United States Congress decided to end that,” Hermida explains.
Faced with this external challenge, CIC had a vital decision to make: remain limited within a sector that was likely to experience a slowdown or pivot and diversify into new horizons. Hermida reflects on the decision: “We decided to expand our business into other sectors of the construction industry.”
This watershed moment marked a new chapter for CIC. The company stepped boldly into other construction industry sectors, such as commercial, residential, hotel, energy, and institutional projects. The expansion, driven by this versatile approach, began CIC’s ascension to becoming one of Puerto Rico’s leading contractors.
As CIC Construction celebrates its 40th anniversary, Hermida exudes a sense of accomplishment. “It’s a goal, an achievement made through these years. We feel that we have accomplished our goal,” he expresses.
In a business landscape that is constantly in flux, CIC has been steadfast in its mission. “When we started the company, we had a vision,” Hermida shares. “And that vision was to become the leading contractor here in Puerto Rico. At this time, I have to say that we have accomplished that goal.” Achieving a vision isn’t a destination; it’s a journey of growth, a marathon where stamina, perseverance, and adaptability are the true measures of success.
Critical to CIC’s remarkable journey are its notable projects, past and present. He emphasizes a point of significant importance, underpinning their strategic direction, “We grew our business through making sure that people understand our vision. That we were creating an inspiring, first-class construction company that will deliver excellence beyond expectation.”
A cornerstone of CIC’s ethos is its ‘client-first’ approach. Acknowledging the importance of relationships in their business, Hermida confirms, “Yes,” when asked whether he characterizes CIC as a client-first business. By placing clients at the heart of its strategy, CIC Construction has hewn a growth path underpinned by strong relationships and consistent delivery of projects that exceed expectations.
CIC Construction’s trajectory is a testament to what’s possible when a clearly defined vision is pursued with unwavering tenacity. As the company celebrates four decades of excellence, its leadership stands poised to continue its legacy of inspiring growth and exceptional delivery.
CIC Construction’s Vice President, Jose Torrens, shares insights into the company’s vast portfolio of past projects and its continued journey of expansion.
“Looking at the chronological timeline,” Torrens begins, “Our first projects were in the pharmaceutical industry. Our inaugural clients included the likes of Warner-Lambert, Baxter, and Lilly, all of whom remain CIC clients after 40 years.” This enduring loyalty is a testament to CIC’s focus on building long-lasting relationships with its clients, a cornerstone of its business model.
The pharmaceutical industry was a solid foundation for CIC, but it was only the first chapter of a multifaceted growth story. Torrens recounts, “We identified we had to diversify into other markets in the island, branching out to retail, commercial, and hotel sectors.” A pivotal milestone in this diversification process was the $57 million project, Club Melia vacation club at Coco Beach. “That put us on the map in the hotel sector,” Torrens states.
Success breeds success, and CIC continued its momentum in the hospitality sector with the construction of Saint Regis at Bahia Beach, the first five-star hotel in Puerto Rico, followed by the six-star Ritz-Carlton Reserve at Dorado Beach. A foray into these projects was not just about expanding their portfolio but also about showcasing their ability to deliver premium quality in every sector they entered.
Simultaneously, the firm was also making strides in the industrial and biopharmaceutical sectors. The Amgen/Lilly project award around 2004 marked a significant moment in CIC’s journey. As Hermida states, “At that time, the biopharmaceutical industry was growing worldwide. Puerto Rico became one of the main hubs for the biopharmaceutical industry. Projects such as Amgen and Eli Lilly were being built here on the island, and CIC participated in all of them.”
This diversification and rapid growth brought about an expansion in their workforce as well. Torrens explains, “In those years, we reached nearly 1500 employees.” This increase was gradual, demonstrating a calculated and deliberate strategy of growth that mirrored their project expansion.
Speaking to the current era of CIC’s work, Torrens elucidates, “We are engaged in numerous projects. Sartorius, a major biopharmaceutical client, has recently handed us an $80 million project. We also have a five-star hotel underway, worth over $120 million.”
Torrens also reveals a promising project in the pipeline that illustrates the company’s residential building prowess. “In the residential sector, we’re constructing high-end luxury residential apartments in Bahia Beach,” he shares, “This is a $125 million project for CIC that’s currently in progress.”
The company’s work also extends to other sectors, with a recently completed warehouse and distribution center for Econo, Puerto Rico’s largest supermarket chain, under its belt. An $80 million project that added another dimension to their diverse portfolio.
Despite the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, CIC Construction has navigated the storm. Torrens acknowledges that “the market has been affected by supply chain and labor shortage,” but the company has weathered these difficulties largely thanks to its loyal workforce. “We have a core group of employees who have been with us for an average of 17 years. Even during economic slowdowns, we keep our employees working with us,” he asserts.
Echoing Torrens, Hermida adds, “It’s imperative to note that our employees, on average, stay with the company for around 16 years.” This impressive retention, especially within the construction industry, is no accident. It can be attributed to the company’s philosophy, as described by Torrens: “Treat them like family. We haven’t changed the way we approach our employees. We train them and always have their best interest in mind.”
The company’s emphasis on safety underscores its commitment to the well-being of its workforce. “The construction business is tough and dangerous. We ensure everyone is safe and gets home safe every day,” Torrens elaborates.
Reflecting on the cornerstone of their construction philosophy, Hermida explains the emphasis CIC places on hiring local talent and vendors for their construction projects. “The only people who truly understand the market and needs in Puerto Rico are the locals. It’s hard for a company from outside to come and bring labor or skilled personnel without incurring high costs.
We essentially rely on personnel from Puerto Rico,” he says, emphasizing the firm’s commitment to supporting local expertise and industry.
Supply chain slowdowns and material costs, concerns that have become prominent in the aftermath of the pandemic, have proven challenging but manageable for CIC. As Torrens elucidates, “It has been a challenge, but not a significant issue. Every market is facing the same situation. So far, we’ve completed our projects in collaboration with our clients.”
Addressing the growing trend towards environmentally friendly construction, Torrens outlines the company’s green building initiatives. “Most of our green initiatives are driven by our clients and their projects. Many projects involve elements such as solar power, EV chargers, efficient HVAC equipment, and low-water-consumption plumbing fixtures,” he explains.
However CIC’s commitment to green initiatives isn’t limited to their client’s projects. Torrens continues, “In our main office, we generate solar power and reclaim rainwater for greywater usage. We’ve installed LED lighting and follow other environmentally friendly techniques.” With these strategies, CIC Construction demonstrates its commitment to sustainability and innovative green building practices, confirming its position as a forward-thinking force in the construction industry.
As Torrens readily acknowledges, at the core of CIC Construction’s accomplishments lies a network of strong relationships and partnerships. “We’ve been fortunate to develop such great relationships with many companies in Puerto Rico and the United States,” he shares, appreciating the role of these associations in the company’s growth and expansion. “Our suppliers and subcontractors are a massive part of our success.”
Beyond Puerto Rico, CIC has successfully branched out to North Carolina and Florida. Torrens elaborates on the decision to expand outside Puerto Rico. “Similar to our decision to diversify in the late 90s, we opened an office in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2016, serving a large presence of industrial high-tech and biopharmaceutical clients, which is our main sector, even though we have been diversifying there.”
The market in Florida, however, presents a different landscape. “We opened an office in Orlando in 2019. Our clients are primarily in tourism, like Disney, retail, and government,” Torrens explains, underscoring the company’s ability to adapt to different sectors across different geographical locations.
Looking ahead, the company plans to keep the momentum going, as Hermida outlines. “Our focus continues to be the same – keep growing.”
In its journey of growth and expansion, the vision for CIC is clear: to maintain its growth trajectory in Puerto Rico while simultaneously expanding its footprint on the United States East Coast. It’s a balancing act that exemplifies its leadership’s strategic planning and adaptability, underlining the company’s legacy as a dynamic force in the construction world, poised to build new heights of success in the years ahead.
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AT A GLANCE
What: Leading construction company with planned expansion for 2023 and beyond
Where: San Juan, Puerto Rico
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Thank you for not being afraid of change, for innovating and lecturing business in these 30 years of helping build Puerto Rico. We are sure that many more anniversaries will come to celebrate your effort and creativity. We are very proud to work with such brilliant and virtuous minds that make up this innovative group. We wish you to multiply your successes and remain United for many more years. It is a pleasure to greet CIC in this achievement.
Congratulations in this new anniversary, we are sure that they will not stop and we will keep working hand to hand in the future for Puerto Rico’s recovery. From here we wish them much success, health and prosperity.
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