How Michael Baker International Strengthens Synergy by Strategic Move

From an eight-employee firm in 1940, today, Michael Baker International has more than 6,000 employees with nearly 100 offices around the world with various victorious achievements. This victory recalls its long journey.
Michael Baker leadership team and the light rail project in Florida
Courtesy: Michael Baker
By | 11 min read

Based in Pittsburgh with nearly 100 offices nationwide, Michael Baker International partners with clients on various aspects of designing. This firm is considered as a leading provider of engineering and consulting services, including design, planning, architectural, environmental, construction and program management with a legacy of thriving in more than 80 years.

Serving as a trusted adviser to the communities, Michael Baker International defined its mission is to help the society safer, more accessible, more sustainable and more prosperous. This firm has offered transformational changes for not only its clients but also the society it served. There is an impressive slogan at this Pittsburgh-based firm: “Make a Difference”.

A Brief of Michael Baker’s Rich History and Iconic Projects

On May 1st 1940, Michael Baker Jr. opened his engineering and consulting firm Michael Baker, just as the country was struggling to climb out of the Great Depression. He knew he was taking a big risk, but he wanted to design and build big things – roads, bridges, dams, canals, tunnels and similar structures that civil engineers worked on. By the end of its first year, this firm started to take root, beginning with a $40 drafting assignment, and grew to eight employees.

1943, Michael Baker won a contract for the location study and design for the first major freeway in Pittsburgh – the Penn-Lincoln Parkway East. The project was the Company’s first foray into designing, building and improving road corridors, complex highway interchanges and urban streetscapes. Around the same time, the Company also moved into architectural work, designing and building elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, churches, airports, stadiums and transit systems around the country. By 1960, the Company had grown to more than 1,000 people and Engineering News-Record magazine ranked it as the largest architectural-engineering company in the country.

Michael Baker International continued to concentrate on the field of transportation, and by the early 1990s, it had engineered thousands of bridges and 10,000 miles of road, often working on the nation’s most complex transportation networks.

Michael Baker engineers collaborate at a job site
Courtesy: Michael Baker

Today Pittsburgh-based Michael Baker International operates with the same visionary spirit and intense work ethic of its late founder. Offering engineering, architectural, environmental and construction services – among many other offerings – from nearly 100 offices around the world, the company’s diverse roster of infrastructure projects is as impressive as its reach.

Embracing technology, transforming communities and bringing people together through the marvels of engineering, the firm continues to fulfill Michael Baker Jr.’s original mission to make the world a better place.

Continuously Expanded the Portfolio: Key to Thrive

With a keen focus on people, Michael Baker constantly seek to improve communities and create more sustainable and convenient healthy. This firm creates planning concepts as they move from an initial vision through implementation, aligned with a community’s unique vision and development strategy.

Through its Planning Practice, Michael Baker International has shaped the future of communities. A team of experts makes sure firm’s project aligns with a community’s vision and connects people to their environment in meaningful ways.

For example, Michael Baker – with extensive history in planning and broadband analysis and implementation capabilities – was selected to develop a connectivity roadmap for Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission to help position the region for competitiveness and interconnectedness.

“The range of Michael Baker’s capabilities enables us to provide important cross-cutting services such as resiliency planning and our innovations in data analytics, engagement and visualization enable us to deliver high-quality, data-driven and relatable plans.” – said Niek Veraart, AICP, ASLA, ENV SP, National Planning Practice Lead

And because they believe it’s important to be responsible stewards of the land they build on, Michael Baker engineers have also become experts in providing Environmental services, including remediating former military sites and removing dangerous industrial materials from the land left behind by shuttered steel mills in Pittsburgh and other plants around the country.

Michael Baker staff speaks at a conference of Association of Environmental Professionals
Courtesy: Michael Baker

Water services is another way the Company has expanded its portfolio. When public water in California became brackish and unsafe to drink, the California American Water Company in Monterey Bay hired Michael Baker International to purify it. The new water desalination system and 17 miles of pipeline the Company built gave residents an abundant supply of clean water.

Michael Baker International has also been on the forefront of Energy development, including oil and gas transmission, since its early days in the oil fields of western Pennsylvania, and remains a key player in the production and transmission of energy resources throughout the world.

The Company also develops and utilizes the latest technology to make the communities it serves safer, more accessible and more sustainable. Within the last decade, designing intelligent transportation systems has become a priority in this firm, which means using drones and other technologies to inspect bridges, streamline traffic flow and reduce highway fatalities.

Building Legacy by Innovation

From the whole picture of its history, it can be seen that Michael Baker has built its legacy – and full continuum of solutions – on a diverse culture of innovation. Solving society’s most complex challenges often requires new ideas, processes, technologies and solutions where none existed previously. At Michael Baker, this firm has leveraged its diverse backgrounds, expertise, experience and can-do attitudes to offer cutting-edge services and solutions to more quickly and efficiently deliver complex projects.

Michael Baker staff speaks at a conference
Courtesy: Michael Baker

For example, this firm collaborated with Intel and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to use drone technology to help inspect the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge, an eight-lane interstate that crosses the Ohio River. By leveraging the latest drone technology, the bridge – which carries nearly 100,000 vehicles daily – remained open and fully functional during inspection.

Michael Baker is also a leader in applying innovative and emerging technologies to its projects and was one of the first in its industry to receive FAA certification to operate Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to capture robust, real-time aerial photographs and video as well as conduct aerial mapping for its clients that need surveys or inspections of a site. Additionally, firm’s early adoption of the emerging Mobile LiDAR technology to map the nation’s infrastructure has guided more than twenty-five state departments of transportation and transportation agencies through their first use of Mobile LiDAR, helped establish industry standards and shaped the evolution of Mobile LiDAR technology and hardware.

This firm also pays high attention to the excellent executive board, who directly leads its innovation. For example, in 2020, Michael Baker International announced that Dan Kieny has joined the firm’s Executive Leadership Team as Chief Technology Officer.

Mr. Kieny is a seasoned Information Technology (IT) leader with comprehensive knowledge of engineering and construction, energy, water and manufacturing industries. In his new position, Mr. Kieny will lead the Information Technology Services Organization, which is responsible for all facets of the firm’s technology.

“Dan comes to Michael Baker with 30 years of experience in IT, including several prominent leadership positions within our industry,” said Brian A. Lutes, Chief Executive Officer at Michael Baker. “With an impressive background spanning all aspects of IT, including technology, innovation and cybersecurity, Dan will be a valuable partner to us as he helps advance our technology and IT operations.”

Mr. Kieny previously spent 12 years at MWH Global as the firm’s Global IT Director and Global Innovation Director before serving four years at Black & Veatch as Senior Vice President and Global Chief Information Officer. He was then asked to lead the spin-off of Pivvot, a software company that delivers intelligent asset management systems to infrastructure organizations, and to serve as the company’s CEO and President. Earlier in his career, Mr. Kieny held posts at Applied Theory, Infoimage, Mincom USA, IBM/Tivoli Systems and First Data Corporation.

Mr. Kieny earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His leadership credentials include being ITIL certified and PROSCI Change Management certified, and he has served as a member of The Wall Street Journal CIO Network and numerous client advisory boards, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise and DXC Technologies.

Maintaining Strong Relationship With the Government

a freeway project handled by Michael Baker engineers
Courtesy: Michael Baker

“The U.S. Government has long been a key client partner for Michael Baker International” said Frank Terak, Vice President at Michael Baker Corporation.

The Company’s long history of service to the U.S. government dates back to the early 1940s, when Michael Baker Jr. won military contracts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Over the decades, the Company has planned, designed and constructed projects for the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others.

Recently, in December of 2021, Michael Baker International, a global leader in engineering, planning and consulting services, has been selected by the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) for a three-year, $50 million maximum value On-Call Design Services contract. The statewide contract will focus on the design of highway projects in Arkansas on an as-needed basis through the end of 2024 and aligns with the Connecting Arkansas Program, one of the largest highway construction programs ever undertaken by ARDOT.

“Michael Baker has worked throughout Arkansas for nearly 20 years and our personnel bring extensive local experience and knowledge to this new contract,” said Amanda Furr, Office Executive for Michael Baker International’s Little Rock office.  “We are proud to build upon our partnership with ARDOT and be a part of Arkansas’s growing infrastructure programs. Our team is committed to delivering trust, expertise and innovation to achieve success for the state’s On-Call Design Services projects.”

Under this contract, Michael Baker will undertake a variety of projects, including resurfacing, restoration, rehabilitation, reconstruction, new construction, capacity improvements, intersection improvements, conceptual layouts, site design, cost estimates, engineering studies, value engineering studies or any other design-oriented tasks needed for project development for ARDOT.

Achievements During the Pandemic

Applying all of the above strategies, Michael Baker International affirmed its strong industry leadership position with the release of Engineering New Record’s (ENR) 2021 rankings. In the context which design sector was seriously affected by the pandemic, this award is impressive.

The annual survey provides detailed rankings of the largest professional service firms and construction firms in almost 50 separate market sectors. In 2021, Michael Baker maintained its position in the top 6% of Design Firms, ranking No.31 for the second consecutive year.  The firm also ranked No. 18 among the Top 100 Pure Designers.

Michael Baker staff work on light rail project
Courtesy: Michael Baker

“During a challenging year, Michael Baker employees remained committed to solving complex infrastructure problems and delivering projects of the highest quality for our clients,” said Brian A. Lutes, Chief Executive Officer at Michael Baker International. “I thank our colleagues for continuing Michael Baker’s more than 80-year legacy of delivering expertise, experience, innovation and integrity for our clients. Those characteristics contributed to our continued strong standings within the latest ENR rankings.”

Michael Baker was also recognized as a top-30 firm in key sectors, including:

  • Bridge: Michael Baker has a long history of addressing bridge design, construction and preservation challenges with innovative and sustainable solutions and secured the No. 5 rank for the third consecutive year.
  • Water: Michael Baker’s No. 10 ranking in Water reflects its priority to assist clients in continually improving water systems for future generations. The firm also moved up one spot to No. 7 in Transmission Lines and Aqueducts and maintained the No. 7 position for the second straight year in Dams and Reservoirs.
  • Transportation: The firm utilizes its vast experience, expertise and innovative ideas to assist clients in improving lives through a well-thought-out and implemented transportation system, leading to it maintaining the No. 12 ranking.
  • General Building: Michael Baker climbed two spots to No. 8 in Government Offices and improved four spots to No. 14 in Multi-Unit Residential.
  • Airports: The firm serves more than 150 aviation clients with their airports, facilities and operations. This year, Michael Baker’s Airports rank rose three spots to No. 19.
  • Site Assessment and Compliance: Michael Baker’s No. 15 rank in Site Assessment and Compliance highlights the firm’s commitment to sustainable development.
  • Pipelines: Michael Baker has played a key role in some of the largest pipeline systems in the world, earning the No. 23 ranking in Pipelines.
  • Construction Management: Michael Baker’s Construction Services Practice is dedicated to adding value and driving efficiency from small projects to multi-billion-dollar construction programs, achieving No. 29 for the second year in a row.

At a regional level, Michael Baker continues to expand its presence in key markets to serve its client base and accommodate growth, reflected as the firm continued to rank in the top-30 on a number of ENR lists, including Mid-Atlantic (No. 2 for the seventh straight year); Mountain (rose seven places to No. 10); New York (No. 26 for the second consecutive year); Southwest (moved up two spots to No. 26) and Northwest (No. 27 for the second year in a row).

The Bottom Lines

To get those above impressive results, the executive board of Michael Baker International had to have a very deep understanding of key factors directing their success, along with a right navigation towards a better future for the whole society. In terms of its potential, Michael Baker International seems still strong and well positioned for the future because of strategic moves. This can be considered as valuable lessons for today’s design firm.

  • As a Business Performance Analyst at EnvZone, Molly supplies clients with integrated marketing and sales campaigns into websites. By knowing exactly her mission is to improve clients’ business efficiency, she…