AUGUSTA — When Lajoie Brothers was named small business of the year by the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2001, Greg Lajoie was proud.

At the time, the second generation of the Lajoie family — Steve, John and Ken — was running the company.

“It meant a lot to me for my father and uncles to win,” Lajoie, who is Ken’s son, said last week. “I knew it meant a lot to my father. He was really proud of it.”

Now as the company is in the hands of the third generation of Lajoies, it has been named Large Business of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m excited,” Greg Lajoie said. “It’s a great honor for us.”

Its accomplishments will be celebrated Jan. 29 at the Kenney Awards, the annual celebration by the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce held at the Augusta Civic Center.

The Large Business of the Year award is one of six that will be given that night.

To be eligible for this award, candidates must be in business for at least four years and have 10 or more employees. They also must be recognized for excellence in their industry through innovation, customer service, staff development and marketing. Its effect on the region through community involvement and economic impact also is considered.

“It’s difficult every year when we go through selecting these awards,” said Steve Marson, 2018 chairman of the chamber’s board of directors.

There are so many candidates who could be given awards, Marson said, that it’s hard to come to a final decision.

The nominating committee considers many factors, including what a company has contributed to the Augusta micropolitan area, and how it’s able to help fulfill the vision of what the chamber is trying to do.

Lajoie Brothers was founded in 1962 by O’Neil Lajoie, who was Greg’s grandfather, and O’Neil’s brother Armand as a two-person shop.

In the late 1970s, O’Neil’s sons, Steve, John and Ken, assumed ownership. They built the business from one truck and a one-room office to what it is today, Lajoie said, changing location, adding trucks and employees and tackling bigger projects.

Steve Lajoie retired 10 years ago, and Ken Lajoie retired two years ago.

John Lajoie, 57, remains as vice president. His son Joe, 29, is vice president and treasurer; and Greg Lajoie, 46, is president.

The company has two divisions. One takes on commercial and residential concrete projects; the other is a general contracting division.

Occasionally, the company accepts an out-of-state project, but the bulk of its projects are in central and southern Maine, generally within about 75 miles of Augusta.

The expansion at Augusta Fuel Co. several years ago was one of those projects.

Marc Lacasse, president of the propane and oil dealer, said his company has a longstanding relationship with the construction company.

“I starting working here in ’85 or ’86, and we were working with them then,” he said.

Augusta Fuel is both a subcontractor and business partner with the construction company, and when it was planning to expand its Northern Avenue headquarters a few years ago to accommodate growth, it chose Lajoie Brothers to do the work.

“It was a rehab and new construction,” Lacasse said. “We absolutely were very happy.”

What’s important to the Lajoies is that they run a family business.

While the company has a challenge in finding workers, Lajoie said once it finds them, they are inclined to stay.

“We have 18 employees who have been with us for more than 15 years,” he said. “We keep our key people in place, and we’re fortunate to do that. We have low turnover; even the guys who get laid off (over the winter) tend to come back.”

There is, Lajoie said, a feeling of family when everyone has everyone else’s best interests in mind.

“The guys take real pride in their work. They care,” Lajoie said. “It’s not just getting a paycheck. They are friends or have become friends through the years. That’s kind of the key to our success.”

Lajoie said working for the company was never pushed on him or his cousin. They naturally followed their fathers around, starting at the bottom and working their way up.

When Lajoie went to college, he earned a degree in business administration at the University of Southern Maine, and Joe Lajoie earned his degree in construction management at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston.

“We knew what our future would be,” he said.

It’s not clear yet whether a fourth generation will step up.

Joe Lajoie has a 1-year-old, and Greg has two children, one 10 and one 8.

“They follow me around like I followed my dad,” he said. “I would not rule it out.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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