Rich Baker, Vice President of Corporate Engineering, was recognized by the Sugar Journal as a 2023 ‘Sugar Notable’ in the Raw Sugar Refiner category. Rich, who has been with our company for more than 40 years, is widely respected for his experience and expertise in all parts of our business, as well as his mentorship of generations of engineers.
The following article was published in the May 2023 issue of the Sugar Journal:
As vice president of corporate engineering for ASR Group, part of Richard Baker’s job is training new engineers.
“I guess I have a different perspective on the younger generation than some other people,” Baker said. “I find that they want to learn and feel valued.
I like to challenge them and try to teach them what I’ve learned in my more than forty years in the industry.”
Baker excelled in his high school chemistry class and while in college at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, he decided to major in chemical engineering. At that time, he said, engineers were in great demand, and as bonus, he found the subject interesting.
After graduating, he worked as an engineer for a chemical company.
Soon, however, the company wanted to move him to Missouri. An avowed “East Coast guy,” Baker preferred to work closer to home. He also hoped to return to Villanova for an advanced degree. In February 1980, he began working in Amstar’s Philadelphia plant. At the same time, he enrolled as a graduate student at Villanova, where he earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering. He went on to earn an MBA from the University of Virginia in 1993.
When Amstar closed their Philadelphia plant, he moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where he has been ever since.
Amstar went through a number of changes during Baker’s years with the company, eventually becoming American Sugar Refining in 2001.
Baker’s career has involved many different aspects of the business including production, maintenance, and management. Currently, he travels between American Sugar Refining’s five North American sugar refining plants, working with engineers to prevent and solve maintenance issues through training and improvements. Though he remains based in Baltimore, he spends about 80% of his time in Louisiana.
“If young people have ideas, I like to let them try them. I think it’s important to listen to the younger engineers. Technology changes and we have to adapt,” he said.
At the same time, Baker loves to pass on the knowledge he has gained, especially to people who feel the way he does about the industry.
“It’s not just a nine-to-five job. It gets in your blood. I’ve really enjoyed my time working in sugar,” Baker said.
Overall, he has found sugar to be an industry where people are helpful and sharing ideas is the norm.
Being selected by peers in the industry makes Baker feel honored.
“It’s nice to be recognized for just doing the best you can for the last 40 years. But I didn’t do it alone. I always had a good team and good people around me to help as well,” he said.
His other awards include the 2004 Industrialist of the Year Award for the city of Baltimore.
Baker has served on the board of directors for the Baltimore Museum of Industry and the Maryland Industrial Technology Alliance, and as a member of the Maryland Industrial Group.
Baker has been married for 27 years to his wife Terry, and they have three children, Lindsey, Sierra and Andrew.
In his spare time, Baker likes woodworking and restoring cars.
Once or twice a year, he goes deep sea fishing with a group of friends he met in the sugar business.