C.J. (Cecelia) Fraser ’96 took over the family business in time to celebrate its 60th year. Fraser is currently president of Fraser Engineering Company, Inc., an industrial/commercial contracting firm located in Newton, Mass., with approximately 70 employees.
After earning a B.A. in architectural studies and art history from William Smith, Fraser joined the company as an assistant estimator, but left for a time to explore other career opportunities. She returned in 2003 as a project manager and estimator and, upon her father’s retirement in 2009 she became president. Today, she runs the firm with her sister, Shawna, who is vice president of safety and secretary.
Fraser Engineering provides mechanical, plumbing, industrial processing, electrical and general contracting, as well as 24-hour service and support to companies throughout the Northeast. The firm undertakes activities such as retrofitting steam pipes for World War II era government installations to creating environmentally-controlled labs for biotech and pharmaceutical researchers. Clients include Astra Zeneca, Gensyme, JFK Museum, National Grid, the City of Newton, Harvard, MIT and others.
Both Fraser sisters grew up helping out in the business. School vacations were devoted to painting catwalks, cleaning boilers and paying vendors.
“It’s as if we were being trained to lead a company in a very male dominated industry but didn’t realize it at the time,” remarks C.J. Fraser, referring to the executive positions she and her sister, now hold as the third generation leaders of this family-owned firm.
Experienced in breaking barriers as the first women in several previously all-male schools, the sisters attained a variety of skills including a general contractor license, a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer license, a U.S. Coast Guard license as Master of Power vessels up to 100 gross tons, apprentice status in HVAC/R, estimating, welding, and several OSHA certifications as well as degrees in architectural studies, fine arts, economics and environmental studies. The sisters, along with their mother, Nancy, treasurer, are majority shareholders in this single source industrial/commercial contracting firm building off the achievements started by Lester C.J’s grandfather. All are directors and members of the company board. The company became a close to 40 percent-owned employee firm in 2003 through an Employee Stock Option Purchase (ESOP) program.
The Massachusetts State Office of Minority and Women’s Business Assistance (SOMWBA) certified Fraser Engineering as a Women Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) general contractor specializing in project management in May.
Early this year Fraser Petroleum Services, Inc. was formed as a sister company to Fraser Engineering servicing the petroleum and chemical industries.
According to David Karofsky, president of Transition Consulting Group of Framingham, Mass., “Effecting a change from one generation to another is always a challenge for a family enterprise. While fewer than 10 percent of family businesses survive into a third generation, the Frasers are well ahead of the curve. C.J. and Shawna have a vision for the future which not only includes owner participation from their employees but the use of new technologies and processes to systematize their business and grow into new markets.”
“We are fortunate that we have our parents here with us to serve as counselors,” C.J. says. “We have lots of ideas and things we want to do including moving into new areas of potential growth, implementing systems to measure our performance, and capitalizing on changes in the economy. We are looking forward to preserving our family’s legacy while, at the same time, making our own mark on the business.”