Keeping conservation and construction in the family

By Dana Kobilinsky

A fish ladder created by Maggiora & Ghilotti in Samuel P. Taylor State Park. ©Scott Ghilotti

Scott Ghilotti, the vice president, co-owner and fourth generation of the family-owned company Maggiora & Ghilotti Inc., says working in a construction company has a lot to do with land conservation these days.

“Habitat restoration is a lot more popular now than 10, 15 years ago, and it’s much higher on everyone’s agenda,” Ghilotti said. “We’re turning our focus more toward that type of earthwork than traditional subdivisions and things of that nature.”

Workers with Maggiora & Ghilotti Inc. work on a restoration project for Cullinan Ranch in Vallejo, Calif. ©Mike McClure

Since the San Rafael, Calif., company started 52 years ago, construction has changed, but Ghilotti has helped the company adapt. In the early 1900s, Ghilotti’s great-grandfather Henry J. “Babe” Ghilotti came to the United States from Italy and started a masonry company before moving into construction with his partner Elmo V. Maggiora. The company has remained in the Ghilotti family ever since.

When Scott was 13, he began working at the company doing physical labor and learning how to run the equipment during summers and holidays. After college, he started working there full time, moving up from foreman to project manager to vice president. Now he co-owns the company with his father, Gary.

When the company started, the Ghilottis and Maggioras used Caterpillar equipment, and they still do. “They make the best machinery out there,” Ghillotti said. “They’re hands-down the Cadillac of the equipment world. They have a lot of machinery that works well for habitat restoration.”

Using this equipment, Ghilotti and his company are working on a number of different projects ranging from fixing roads to making sure land and water is good quality for wildlife. Currently, the company is working on a $12 million project to redo two miles of road. They are also working on a levee rehabilitation project. Ghilotti said he tries to keep the company up to date when it comes to innovations in the industry such as using GPS technology.

The company has worked on a variety of wildlife conservation projects as well. For example, they worked with Ducks Unlimited to reinforce levees along a highway and reestablish tidal wetlands. They also worked in Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Marin County to create a fish ladder — a structure that allows migrating fish to pass around an obstacle on a river —to restore the salmon population.

Ghilotti hopes to continue working on similar projects in the future. Meanwhile, he is enjoying working in his family business and keeping his employees happy. “We treat this place like it’s a family,” he said. “I know my employees by name and I know their wives and children by name. We have the opportunity to grow and become bigger, but we’ve kept it on the smaller side. We keep it personal and know our employees by name and not a number.”

Caterpillar, Inc. is a Premier Partner of TWS.

Dana KobilinskyDana Kobilinsky is associate editor at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at dkobilinsky@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article. You can follow her on Twitter at @DanaKobi.

Read more of Dana's articles here.