With a solid book of diverse projects breaking ground in 2023, Yohn Baldwin reflects back on a successful 2022 as Baldwin General Contracting prepares to celebrate 25 years of business throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Anyone who has spent even a matter of minutes speaking with Yohn Baldwin feels right at home.
From his rich family history in wood working, the ultimate life-changing decision to make a career move from music into construction years ago, and the growth of Baldwin General Contracting over the last two decades, Baldwin’s own experiences and story extends much further than just another project site. For Baldwin General Contracting (BGC) in Albany, Oregon, it’s about creating a unique personal experience in an extremely competitive industry thanks to a combination of professionalism, setting a standard in creating quality work, and the incredible people who make Baldwin what it is today.
“My name is on the building and on the bottom line, and I am privileged that I can be of service in this capacity, yet in my heart and mind I know that only contributes a very small part to our success,” said Baldwin, President of Baldwin General Contracting.
“I am constantly humbled by the skill and dedication of all the people at Baldwin and am so proud and amazed of what we have achieved.”
In the last year alone, BGC partnered with key clients across Oregon, Washington, and Idaho and moved an impressive inventory of projects forward while contributing to the successes of Hilton Hotels, Chipotle, The Corvallis Clinic, Microsoft, Linn-Benton Community College, Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, Wyndham Hotel Group, The Port of Newport, North Clackamas School District, the Confederates Tribes of the Grand Ronde, and Triangle Health Care Partners. The best part: Baldwin’s story as a company is still being written every day.
In this on-going Q&A series, we go Inside Baldwin General Contracting to gain an insight on the dedication and attention to detail that goes into each individual project, while also recognizing the talented individuals – Project Managers, Project Engineers, and fellow staff members – who have helped build Baldwin General Contracting into an industry leader.
Before we get into how Baldwin has become synonymous with quality, professionalism, and providing personal attention as a full-service general contracting company, can you reflect for a moment on the longevity of the company? In 2023, Baldwin celebrates 25 years of business. What have you learned the most about yourself and the industry within that time?
I started what would become Baldwin General in 1998. Back then I was supporting my family as a performing musician 5 or 6 evenings a week and working construction during the days. I really took to building and got my contractor’s license in May of that year as Yohn Baldwin Construction.
I think one of most powerful and humbling things I have learned over the years is how important it is to recognize that everyone is different. Commercial Construction on the level that Baldwin performs is a tremendously challenging and complex endeavor and one that can discourage even the most persistent and diligent professionals. I have learned that when people in our diverse group speak up with a different opinion from my own, I make sure to listen and consider what they say and have realized over time that their insights often prove the difference between success and failure. Learning to leverage each other’s unique personalities, backgrounds and skills as an integrated team has been crucial part of our success in overcoming the many difficulties that are so prevalent in our industry.
In terms of the industry, that’s a hard one. I had no experience when I started in construction, just a pickup truck, tool belt, and some hungry kids, I never would have thought then that I would come this far. I guess what stands out the most to me is the people that have helped me along the way. Our industry is filled with very intelligent, generous, and down to earth people who are constantly helping each other while competing with each other at the same time. It’s unique. Commercial Construction is a complicated business and I have learned most of what I know from the amazingly talented trades people that build our projects and by building and deepening relationships with industry leaders through my involvement in Associated General Contracting (AGC).
Woodworking is in your blood having learned the craft from both your grandfather and your father. What are some “tricks of the trade” that they emphasized and passed along to you that you’ve applied to BGC?
That’s an easy one – honesty and hard work always wins – and the craftsman tradition that says anything worth doing is worth doing right. Most importantly is think and plan before you act.
What do you feel has been the key to the growth of Baldwin?
It’s been a lot of things, hard work and long hours of course, and a marrow deep commitment to finishing what we start, but I think if I had to pick one thing it would be our people. My name is on the building and on the bottom line, and I am privileged that I can be of service in this capacity, yet in my heart and mind I know that only contributes a very small part to our success. I am constantly humbled by the skill and dedication of all the people at Baldwin and am so proud and amazed of what we have achieved. I also have a sober understanding that it took all of us to do it.
Quality and professionalism have become just two of the trademarks of Baldwin, along with the personal care and attention dedicated to each individual project regardless of the size. Can you share why investing in those personal relationships with clients is so crucial to the process of building a successful project together?
Apart from the obvious reasons I would say that it comes down to what your values are as a company. As a group Baldwin puts a lot of intention on placing our values of leadership, drive, integrity, accountability, and humility at the center of the relationships we build with our clients. That may sound like a cliché, but think for a second, it means being accountable for our mistakes, providing leadership and humility in resolving our disagreements, having the integrity to always drive for the best project outcome, even when it may not be what’s best for our bottom line. The value of the relationships we have with our past clients far exceeds the value of our balance sheet.
What do you feel sets Baldwin apart from other general contracting companies?
I have learned through my friends at AGC that Baldwin has a reputation for out working our competition. I think that comes from really being the only one in the AGC group that started with nothing and built his own company, and it took a very strong work ethic to do it. But I guess I would say the biggest differentiator is our reputation for quality. I think it’s one of the reasons for our success in the hospitality sector. Luxury hotels have hundreds of thousands of square feet of high-end finishes, when you sweat every detail and walk away with zero punch list items, that makes an impression on clients, but more importantly on all the project stakeholders like subcontractors, city inspectors, and the Baldwin Project team that built it.
Baldwin has done some very impressive work in the commercial and hospitality sectors over the years. The company has also left its mark in education, including construction on area high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, and also at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. What does it mean to have Baldwin’s name associated with construction in the educational sector?
There are many reasons to like working in the education space; first and foremost is the opportunity to benefit the given communities we are working in. Most education projects have tight budgets and construction dollars are their life blood, when we can come in as low bidder and deliver on time and on budget, we know we are helping the teachers, students, and the community and it feels good. We also like the variety. We have built swimming pools, soccer stadiums, CTE centers, historic renovations and all manner of cool projects. It can be a lot of fun.
From 2021 to 2022, you served as chapter president with the Associated General Contractors (AGC) Oregon Columbia chapter. What is your biggest takeaway from that experience and how did that opportunity make you a better President for Baldwin?
Well, there’s that old saying that you always want to hang around people who are smarter than you, or that If you get a chance to play alongside the best players, it will make you a better player. That really describes my experience over the last 15 years since I became a member of AGC. With the fast growth of Baldwin, I soon found myself in position of president – never quite sure if my decisions were the right ones or if my mistakes were normal – and I spent a lot of time in anguish wondering how I measured up. The fact is that the faith and trust our membership placed in electing me to lead on workforce or legislative issues at the committee level, help craft policy and budget direction on the executive level, and ultimately represent the association statewide as president, compelled personal and professional growth in me that was transformative. I am a different and better leader because of all my experience at AGC.
As you look back on a busy and productive 2022 at Baldwin, what are you the most proud of? What’s next for Baldwin General Contracting?
Our people. In their dedication to following our mission, living our beliefs and sticking to our values, in the sense of family that we all have together, and for leaving it all on the field. Looking forward I think what’s next for Baldwin really is capitalizing on the significant time and resource investments we have made over the last five years in nurturing a culture of continued improvement. It’s played a big part in attracting so many of our talented people who continue to be amazing at refining our systems and processes at all functional levels.
The market has been good to us, we have a solid book of diverse projects breaking ground in 2023 and our preconstruction team is pedal to the metal keeping up with new opportunities. I feel confident that Baldwin well is positioned to realize our 5 year strategic plan for growth and improvement.
*photos credited to Wayde Crawford and David Bayles