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AWCI’s Pinnacle Award Winner: Steve Baker

Steve Baker, president of Baker Drywall, Ltd. in Dallas, is the 2010 winner of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry’s most prestigious and elite honor, the Pinnacle Award. Baker was honored at AWCI’s Convention during the Awards Presentation Brunch in Denver.

AWCI’s Pinnacle Award is presented annually to the individual who most merits our industry’s recognition, an individual who has given unselfishly of his or her time and energies to benefit AWCI and the industry. Not only are the candidates evaluated on their dedication to the industry, but also on their civic and community work and the excellence of their companies.

Baker Drywall, Ltd. has been an AWCI member since 1983. The BakerTriangle family of companies includes Baker Drywall Dallas, Ltd.; Baker Drywall Austin, Ltd.; Baker Drywall Houston, Ltd.; Baker Drywall Fort Worth, Ltd.; Wallcon Texas, Ltd.; Baker Drywall Louisiana, LLC.; Baker Drywall San Antonio, Ltd.; Triangle Plastering, Ltd. and Baker Drywall Arizona, LP. Based on 2008 revenue, BakerTriangle ranked #176 in Engineering News-Record’s list of the largest specialty contractor in the United States in 2009. Among wall and ceiling companies, BakerTriangle was #9 in the nation with a 4 percent growth rate from the previous year.

Baker has been an active member of AWCI for decades and was the association’s 1996–1997 president. Baker is currently the chairman of TEXO, the construction association representing commercial contractors, primarily general contractors, in North and East Texas, and he has been president of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area Drywall & Acoustical Contractors Association and the North Texas chapter of the American Subcontractors Association. He is also a member of the Associated General Contractors of America.

Baker started in the plaster industry at a very young age. His father, Bob Baker, said, “In the early days, on Saturdays, I always checked jobs, and when Steve was only six or eight years old, he used to go with me every Saturday to check jobs.”

When he was in high school he worked on scaffolding crews during his summers. After graduating from Texas Tech University in 1975 with a degree in business, Baker joined his father at BakerTriangle and began overseeing Baker Drywall, soon after, becoming owner.

His brother, Ralph Baker, said, “We were doing $1,500 jobs and my dad handed it to him and said, ‘This little company we started: See what you can do with it.’”

Thirty-five years later, Steve Baker is CEO of one of the most successful wall and ceiling businesses in the Southwest United States: BakerTriangle. The company’s projects range from government facilities, schools, hospitals and churches, to office towers, sports facilities and retail establishments.

When the company experienced difficult times when the market turned in the early and mid-1980s, Baker made sure the company stayed in business and its employees held on to their jobs. “The market had faltered pretty dramatically, probably the worse downturn that we’d ever seen since I’d been in the business. There was not much work coming in, and Steve was pretty diligent about keeping everybody onboard. We would have weekly meetings and it’s like, ‘You know, there’s work out there. We’ve got to find it,’” said Jerry Smith, president of the Baker company in Austin, Texas. “It took a few years, but obviously it did come back, and when it did we went from a $6 million to $7 million a year company to a $15 million to $20 million a year company within five years.”

“He’s a very forward-thinking businessman,” said Johnny Barnes, president of the Baker company in Dallas. “I remember the first time he told me he was going to hire a safety director—that’s about 15 years ago—I told him that, that was kind of a silly notion, and look, lo and behold, here we are with multiple safety directors. We can see that they create a profit for the company and control our costs.”

Other company employees credit Baker’s forward way of thinking. Baker’s company was one of the first drywall companies to be on the Internet, and the company is currently expanding its Building Information Modeling program.

Baker is also credited for his generous nature. For one, he set up a deal with a local coffee shop that is close to a reserve base. Any Army personnel or soldier who visits the shop can have a free coffee on BakerTriangle.

The company is also setting up “BT Cares,” which stands for “BakerTriangle Cares.” BT Cares will be a Web site that facilitates spiritual and financial guidance for company employees.

In his spare time, Baker enjoys hunting, traveling, golfing, ranching and participating in Renaissance Fairs. But his main hobby is horse breeding and thoroughbred racing.

All that may soon change, however, as Baker became a grandparent for the first time when Luke Austin Baker was born in January. He and his wife, Carol, have been married for 32 years, and they have three children.

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