Sandra McQuain, chief operating officer of Baker Manufacturing, is awarded March 2017’s Hometown Hero award. It was presented by WNTZ FOX 48, Randy Wiggins of Randy Wiggins State Farm Insurance and James Greer, pastor of Journey Church.
Wiggins surprised McQuain at Baker Manufacturing. He presented her a plaque, along with gifts from local businesses across Central Louisiana, valued at $250.00.
McQuain is on the board for the United Way of Central Louisiana. Prior to her service on the board, she was involved in a study group for the organization’s ALICE project.
The project, with its acronym standing for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed,” is an academic research project which investigates the plight of individuals and families who maintain steady employment, but the individual or household still falls above the poverty line but below the ability to afford basic expenses such as housing, food, transportation, child care, health care and paying taxes.
Louisiana’s version of the United Way ALICE report, updated in 2016, shows 52 percent of households in Avoyelles Parish, 49 percent in Grant, 38 percent in LaSalle, 45 percent in Rapides and 37 percent in Vernon Parish fall within the ALICE designation or are in poverty.
As COO of Baker, McQuain sees firsthand how the families of the employees she oversees struggles with affording basic living necessities. “I can see some of the challenges, maybe some of our folks would have in the back (the operations area of Baker), and I couldn’t quite frame it until I read ALICE,” she said. “It then really began to make sense to me the challenges the working poor really have, and as much as I try (at Baker) to keep our wages up, keep our health care reasonable, there are still just challenges (for some of our employees) to making ends meet.”
Through McQuain’s realization and recognition of these struggles, she began to put her voice to action, speaking about ALICE with business and community organizations such as the Rotary Club of Alexandria, Louisiana Judicial College and others on behalf of making progressive change for workers in the area and the state.
McQuain also keeps busy in her spare time, as a member of the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, the Cenla Manufacturing Managers Council, Cenla Chamber of Commerce, North Rapides Business and Industry Alliance, Rotary Club of Alexandria, Alexandria Kiwanis Club and is on the Board of Trustees for Alexandria Country Day School.
After a stint running a software company in Lake Tahoe, Calif., McQuain and her family arrived in Central Louisiana so she can work for Baker Manufacturing. She has been with the company and in the community for the last four years.
McQuain spent the early part of her career in the political realm in her home state of Tennessee, serving on the staff of a former governor and as a state director for a U.S. senator.
In between her political and corporate endeavors, she was a founding member of Howell McQuain Strategies in Memphis, Tenn., a public relations and business strategies firm. She was recognized by the Memphis Business Journal as one of the ‘Top 40 Under 40′ in 1999, and in 2000, was recognized as one of ’50 Women Who Make A Difference’ by Memphis Woman magazine.
McQuain and her husband, John, are the proud parents of Stephanie,14, and Matthew, 11. She and her family are members of First United Methodist Church in Alexandria.
Hometown Heroes is sponsored by Randy Wiggins State Farm Insurance and Journey Church in Pineville.