By Kalea Hall
Drive down any street in the Mahoning Valley and surrounding areas, and there’s a good chance at least one of the homes has a Baird Brothers Sawmill fine hardwood product inside.
The Internet enabled the company to expand its reach far beyond the Mahoning and Shenango valleys.
But the six second- generation partners have not forgotten their wooden roots as the company’s growth continues.
“I thought everyone went to work on Saturday with their dad,” said Matt Baird, a partner in the company. “I always knew I wanted to be a lumberman.”
The Bairds’ long-standing love of wood, desire to provide a top product and maintain trust with the customer, ethical decisions as a company and integrity led them to take home a Better Business Bureau Torch Award earlier this month.
“When you are in business, you always strive to make it bigger and better, and as a family came along, we kept growing, and we are still growing,” said Paul Baird, one of the founders.
It all started in 1956 with a small sawmill on the Baird Ellsworth Township farm, where the family still grows beans and corn. Three Baird brothers, Richard, Howard and Paul, produced products such as pallets and furniture to help fund Richard and Howard’s Youngstown State University education.
In 1960 the brothers got their first automatic saw, incorporated a company: Baird Brothers Sawmill Inc. and bought a building on Crory Road. In 1972, they built a moulding plant at the location.
Although the decade was difficult with the economic struggles the Valley faced, the brothers made moulding and continued to do well. Finished lumber soon became an added product.
The 1980s brought expansion to more markets. “We produced our major market then,” Matt said.
That market was Western Pennsylvania and Cleveland. They worked with residential homeowners and contractors to build and build the business.
And then came the housing boom of the 1990s.
“That was when we really grew,” Matt said.
The 30-some employees became more than 100 building staircases, flooring and whatever was requested.
“It is a cool feeling to see those homes [complete],” Matt said.
The boom allowed the company to invest in better technology, including a hardwood scanner to detect defects in the wood, and cut the lumber automatically, and there is the CNC router that provides quality to the products like never before.
“We take what the client needs, and the engineer draws it and then it goes from the engineer to the programmer and then to the CNC router,” Matt explained.
The housing boom continued into the 2000s, leaving the work constant. The Internet helped boost sales outside of the company’s traditional market, so the work grew even more.
“I never dreamed we would ship a piece of cherry wood to California,” Matt said.
It seemed business would never end, and then came the recession.
“It was amazing,” Matt said. “Our workforce went from overtime to four days a week. We laid nobody off.”
Slowly, the business has been climbing back up from the hard hit it took. The Internet has been an imperative part of this process for both commercial and residential work.
“We ship to all 50 states and Canada and in South America,” Matt said.
Without the Internet, many of the jobs the company received through the years would not have been possible.
“I don’t know how we could do what we do without the Internet,” Matt said.
The Bairds have even shipped as much as the interior of a house to a customer in North Carolina.
While creating new relationships and customers, the six second-generation Baird company partners – Matt, his sister Lori, Tim Baird, Terry Baird, Scott Baird and Mark Baird – have all done their part to maintain the decades-long relationships already created within the Valleys.
“You are proud to be a part of the community,” said Paul, founding brother of the company. “I have been here all of my life. We are proud of the area. We have had some ups and downs, but it is starting to look more promising.”
Paul, 73, still comes to work every day, and he knows his two late brothers would be there, too. In a way, they are.
Not just in the pictures of them on display in the Baird showroom, but in the entire complex.
The work of the Baird Brothers, where about 130 are employed, is visible in recent work done at the new Hill, Barth & King offices in Canfield.
“We don’t just have high-end mill work, we have mill work for everyone,” Matt said.