Steve Marson, owner of Central Maine Pyrotechnics, at his office Friday in Farmingdale.

Steve Marson was 16 years old when he started in the fireworks industry nearly five decades ago, helping Mike Falcone of Hallowell, who taught him the business.

“My goal was always to retire and do fireworks,” Marson said. “Little did I know.”

While Central Maine Pyrotechnics is a small compared to industry giants such as Fireworks by Grucci or Zambelli Fireworks, the Maine-based company has carved out a strong niche as a leading provider of fireworks displays in New England.

Marson, 64, has built his own fireworks business, Central Maine Pyrotechnics, into a regional leader. On Friday, it will be celebrated at the Kenney Awards, the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet, as the 2020 Large Business of the Year.

“To be recognized is really a tribute to the people who work for me,” Marson said.

While Marson is the president, he has 55 fireworks technicians — most trained by him — representing the company and putting on fireworks displays and shows across the six New England states.

“The thing is, they took that passion I have for my business and they carry that same passion to doing the displays,” Marson said.

He describes the people who put on fireworks as performers. They are doctors, police officers, firefighters, nurses, construction workers and laborers who are brought together by their love of fireworks.

“Somewhere in the makeup of their genes or whatever they enjoy the excitement of what fireworks are,” Marson said. “People that become technicians are people that want to do it. It’s not a job to them. It’s their hobby. They love choreographing, taking a bunch of fireworks shells and painting the sky with their signature.”

The success of Marson and his company has extended to the communities of Kennebec County. Among other roles and contributions, Marson has been a lead sponsor of the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center’s free summer concert series at Waterfront Park in Gardiner, and he has donated money to Johnson Hall’s fundraising campaign to renovate its upper theater.

“Without Steve’s generosity, the waterfront concert series would still be once a month instead of once a week,” said Mike Miclon, executive artistic director of Johnson Hall. “His passion for making life better for others is truly his best quality, and we are so thankful to him.”

“I’m a doer,” Marson said. “I like to get involved in things in the Kennebec County area.”

Marson has served on the Gardiner Board of Trade as a member and its president. He has also been involved with many fundraising projects across the region, and filled many roles in Richmond, including a stint as a police officer.

“We are trying to guide some of the positive things that we need to have going on in the next decade,” he said.

Marson and six partners started the pyrotechnics company 34 years ago. Thirteen years ago, he bought out the two remaining partners, and started working on how to expand the business and make it more competitive.

One of his strategies was to look to where new customers might be. The numbers pointed to southern New England.

Another strategy was to deal directly with fireworks manufacturers in China rather than with an importer.

“So I did some research and got on a plane to China, not knowing anything about importing or exporting,” Marson said.

He secured a license from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to import and export explosives, and that set the stage for growth based on safe practices.

In his first year buying fireworks directly, Marson said he spent about $100,000 and imported one shipping container of fireworks. Now, he said,  he imports as many as 20 shipping containers a year. The company uses five to six containers a year for displays, and four to six containers for its retail shops.

Central Maine Pyrotechnics now puts on about 300 shows a year, with 100 anticipated for the Fourth of July weekend alone, which the company has done for the past three years in all six New England states.

When he takes the stage at the Augusta Civic Center to receive his award, Marson said he will be accompanied by his son, Anthony, who is vice president of operations and represents the next generation of the company.

While Marson has served as president of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, and has seen this honor awarded to others, he is surprised his company will be next to receive the award.

“Being selected as the Large Business of the Year by the membership of the chamber, I was kind of humbled by it,” he said. “I didn’t really expect it.”


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