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ABC’s Young Professional of the Year Justin Baker Brings New Energy to His Region and the Merit Shop 

Justin Baker, executive vice president of Gaylor Electric, Mooresville, N.C., has quite a few accomplishments under his belt for man who hasn’t even hit the age of 40. 

Five years ago, Baker took over a small underperforming segment of his company and grew it to one of the most successful branches in the country. He accomplished this while keeping up with several active jobsites, traveling extensively throughout the country, getting more politically involved in the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Carolinas Chapter, and making time for his family while coaching his four kids’ football, basketball and baseball teams. 

His business acumen, volunteerism and commitment to the betterment of the industry are what caught the eye of ABC when it named him the organization’s 2017 Young Professional of the Year.

Baker says he was humbled not only by the caliber of his fellow competitors, but also to receive the award from his mentor, 2017 ABC Chair Chuck Goodrich, president of Gaylor Electric. “What was particularly special this year was having Chuck present me the award,” says Baker, who first met Goodrich while attending the Purdue University School of Building Construction Management and participating on the ABC Student Chapter there. Gaylor Electric invests significant time and effort in recruiting construction management students—and finding someone like Baker is a prime example of why it’s so valuable to do so. 

After completing his apprenticeship, Baker received his bachelor’s degree and dove immediately into his career. Then in 2010, at the peak of the recession, Baker was working out of Gaylor’s Indianapolis home base when the company was making tough decisions whether to save underperforming branches, or risk jeopardizing business. Ultimately, the executive leadership team trusted that Baker would rise to the challenge of turning around the Carolinas branch.

“This turnaround instilled a growing confidence among all of the employees here in the Carolinas,” he says. “Both our performance and our confidence have given us recognition within Gaylor that helps propel us forward in a leadership role within the company’s future.”

As an added benefit of the move, he became more involved in the ABC Carolinas Chapter and began to truly recognize the value the organization provides for mentorship, safety, training and political activism. This year, he chairs the chapter’s Charlotte Council, where he advocates for merit shop principals to be adopted on projects and by voters on a local level. He credits his leadership skills to tips he’s learned from influential ABC chapter presidents, including J.R. Gaylor at the Indiana Chapter and Doug Carlson at the Rocky Mountain Chapter.  

“Political activism within our industry is important to help ensure protection of the individual, the industry itself and the free marketplace that our nation was founded upon,” Baker says.

A Champion for Innovation and Technology 

Baker takes the lead on a regular basis to create innovations in workforce training, technology and productivity that his colleagues in the electrical contracting industry strive to emulate.

“I believe that innovations in technology can help increase the attraction of the industry to our incoming younger generations. Many young individuals have the perception that the construction industry is not a professional environment, but rather one of manual labor and hard work,” he says. “Technology can help rebrand the image of the construction profession within these younger generations.”

At Gaylor Electric, Baker spearheads the use of BIM, virtual reality and robotics. “As construction is becoming more complex and difficult each day with unique designs and smart buildings, these technological advances will take a well-trained and educated workforce to levels that will continue to build toward the future,” he says.

This attention to technology also helps bring in clients. “For the first time in the last year or so, manufacturers are figuring how to get from 3D models to actually producing parts. When you look at the other trades—mechanical, sprinkler, plumbing, etc.—they’ve always had the integration between production equipment and their models. Electrical has never had that in the past. Now we can bend models where you can literally build conduit to exactly what’s been programmed,” Baker says. 

In addition, Baker’s branch is getting more involved in prefabrication to reduce project durations by getting much of the work done offsite for jobs in just about every market sector, including commercial/retail, food manufacturing and distribution, and mixed-use senior living.  

“We focus on being a true solutions provider,” he says. “What I mean by that is really understanding what owners are looking for and what are they trying to accomplish, and ensuring they’ve got the best solution for their cost and needs. We succeed by giving them options and more flexibility to more efficiently construct their project. And we seek to understand what the building is going to produce and what is its purpose.”

Baker considers himself to be a trailblazer; he’s motivated by the rewards of company growth and diversification into new regions and markets, and he enjoys looking to what’s around the bend. But when he’s not at work, his time is truly dedicated to his faith and his community—and of course helping raise his boys, who are ages 9, 8 and 6, and his daughter, who is 4 years old.  

Baker invests his time and talents in volunteer groups, including Regnum Christy, which fosters faith in community leadership and accountability; Room at the Inn, which feeds the homeless population locally; Rise Against Hunger, which provides hunger support internationally; and David’s Well, which organizes international mission trips to aid impoverished communities through the construction of schools and other institutions.

Baker also serves as a board member of the Carolinas Electrical Contractors Association, which helps train and educate electrical field contractors, and offers scholarship and financial assistance for industry members in need.  

“I’m most proud that with these high demands of my profession, I’m still able to be a present and active participant in the lives of my family,” he says. “Without the foundation of my faith and family, my professional career would not be what it is today.” 

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