PORTLAND – Peter G. Vigue thinks the success of Maine’s economy lies largely in the will of Maine’s people.

“It starts with … the people of this state believing in themselves and their capability to compete and win,” said the 63-year-old President and CEO of Pittsfield-based The Cianbro Cos.

Vigue’s beliefs are those of an executive who rose from humble roots to head one of Maine’s top construction firms.

“I came from a family that was not economically privileged,” he said. “If you want to advance, you learn to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

Vigue was born in Caribou. His father, a civil servant from Waterville, worked at Loring Air Force Base in Limestone after World War II and helped build the Maine Turnpike.

Vigue started working in construction when he was about 13 years old, clearing out culverts on Interstate 95. He also delivered newspapers.

He attended Maine Maritime Academy, graduated with a degree in marine engineering in 1969 and worked as an assistant engineer on a ship that delivered jet fuel to the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

In 1970, Vigue took an entry-level position at Cianbro, where he advanced to management positions. He was named president of the firm, which now has revenue of more than $500 million, in 1991.

In addition to running the company, Vigue has been a vocal supporter of projects he thinks can transform the state’s economy and improve the lives of Mainers.

In 2008, he began working on a plan to upgrade Maine’s energy infrastructure, health care system and transportation, and to improve Maine’s business climate. Vigue presented the plan to then-Gov. John Baldacci.

He has pushed for a new toll highway connecting Maine to Canada, weatherizing all Maine homes and the construction of a power transmission line running along the Maine Turnpike. He said revenue from leasing the land could be invested in business.

John O’Dea, CEO of Associated General Contractors of Maine, said Vigue “thinks big and is not looking for incremental solutions.”

“Pete Vigue is a force of nature. He is an uncommon leader and can practically will things to happen,” said O’Dea. “He’s impatient — mercifully impatient — but he gets it done.”

O’Dea said the business community encouraged Vigue to run for governor, but he declined.

Vigue said earlier this week that he has no ambition to be a politician, and no plans to retire.

“I can have a lot more influence on getting things done the way I am now,” he said.

Vigue has two children, 38-year-old Michelle and 40-year-old Andi, who works at Cianbro.

He said he spends much of his free time working with kids he hires to help with projects, like building rock walls and planting gardens on his land.

“I got a chance growing up,” he said. “My job is to be a coach and give them an opportunity.”

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or:

[email protected]