The history of Ghilotti Construction Company (GCC) is more than a classic American success story. It is a tribute to the courage of a young man emigrating from Italy willing to take risks and explore opportunities thousands of miles from home with a vision to do whatever it takes to seek a new life and provide for his family. It is also the saga of an extended family of devoted employees working hard to build an enterprise now celebrating over a century in business – a firm recognized as the largest general engineering contractor in the North Bay.
Coming to the new world with a young wife, infant son, and little more than his own two hands, a strong back and a relentless resolve to build a better future, James Ghilotti established a family-owned and operated enterprise in 1914 that has stood the test of time. In 2014 the engineering contractor company he founded celebrated 100 years of service in building the infrastructure of Northern California with current revenues and new contracts totaling in excess of $200 million.
While the company’s many achievements and hundreds of completed projects are too numerous to mention, several stand out as examples of the excellent teamwork, engineering expertise, quality craftsmanship and attention to detail that have become the hallmarks of Ghilotti Construction Company.
This list includes the Marin County Civic Center, Sonoma Raceway (formerly Sears Point), the 49ers Stadium in Santa Clara, Sutter Medical Center Santa Rosa, the San Francisco International Airport runway expansion, the Graton Rancheria Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, George Lucas’ Big Rock Ranch, a phase of the Geyser’s pipeline construction, site work at the Mayacama Golf Club, and the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University — as well as site work for the world-renowned Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato.
A major landmark in Ghilotti Construction’s history was the acquisition of North Bay Construction.
In 2010, John Barella, founder and CEO of North Bay Construction Company (NBC), who had a 35-year friendly — yet competitive — relationship with Richard, was the low bidder on a large $50 million California state road project from Petaluma to Rohnert Park. Before NBC could secure the contract, the second lowest bidder protested NBC’s bid, and John needed a good lawyer to help him refute the protest. GCC submitted the third lowest bid for the job, and because of the company’s healthy business relationship with NBC, John felt comfortable calling Richard for some advice. Richard put him in touch with the attorney who ultimately helped NBC win the contract.
Prior to the recession, John had also been concerned about the future of his business, and he had considered offers to sell NBC. The $50 million state contract was exactly what NBC needed to stay afloat during the recession. John and Richard decided to meet for a celebratory lunch one day to congratulate NBC’s achievement.
With the recession still in view, they began discussing the future of their general engineering contracting companies and how to best react to the volatile economy. Richard was afraid GCC would have to start closing offices or to begin workforce reductions. Both men agreed that an asset acquisition arrangement was a good idea and said they would think about it. A short while later, the deal was made.
“North Bay Construction got us through that economic slump at a time when few of our competitors were getting much work, plus we acquired a number of good people and equipment in the process,” Richard Ghilotti, President
Among the many events in GCC’s history that have contributed to the success of the company, the most important factor lies with its people, their family spirit, skills and organizational abilities combined with the firm’s constant investment in the business and human development. Despite substantial growth in volume and areas of operation, the company has managed to maintain the feeling of a small, family-oriented company with emphasis on teamwork, friendship and loyalty.
Through the years, Ghilotti Construction Company has grown to encompass operations throughout Northern California and enjoys a reputation as a leader in the heavy construction industry. Working together with a team of skilled professionals, GCC continues to pave the way to the future built on the same traditions that have historically set the company’s reputation apart from all others. As the company enters its second century of service, it continues to build on the legacy, sound practices and strong work ethic established by James Ghilotti and succeeding generations.
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