Baraboo’s latest Gem Award winner helped build the community through his engineering expertise, entrepreneurial acumen and passion for service.
On Tuesday, Mayor Mike Palm presented the award to Matthew Pinion, the longtime MSA Professional Services president who has served several local nonprofits and steered key infrastructure projects.
Palm said Pinion “has dedicated his working life to help make Baraboo a more prosperous and positive place to live and work.”
Pinion served as MSA’s president from 1969 to 1991, and held the posts of CEO and chairman of the board until his retirement in 1996. Under his leadership the company grew from eight employees to 240 in six offices, and MSA became one of the top 500 design firms in the nation.
He said the firm’s staff, including his fellow executives, drove the company forward. “They deserve the credit as much as I do,” Pinion said. He needled Palm, a onetime colleague. “MSA has come a long way,” Pinion said. “One of them even snuck in and was elected as the mayor.”
In addition to serving clients, Pinion helped bolster Baraboo’s infrastructure. In the 1970s he volunteered his engineering services and secured a $369,000 federal grant to fund a test well, provide startup monies for the Community Development Authority’s housing improvement program, and pay for a sewer separation project.
Pinion served on the Baraboo Economic Development Committee from 1996 until 2004 and was active in the creation of several of the city’s tax increment finance districts. He also was a member of the development group that built Thunderbird Lanes on the east side.
Away from the office, Pinion — in addition to raising a family of five children with wife Joan — served several community organizations. He was a member of the Baraboo School Board from 1972 to 1977, when the middle school was built. He also served as president of the East School PTA and president of the Friends of the Zoo. He’s a regular volunteer for the annual circus parade and a 50-year member of the Elks Lodge. Pinion also has been active in St. Joseph Catholic Parish, where he recently received a leadership award, and has served on the board of directors for Camp Gray.
Pinion started his career in Baraboo in 1958 at Platt and Schultz Engineering, leaving two years later for Milwaukee. He returned to town in 1968 as a partner for a firm that was then known as Mid-State Associates. Pinion became president the next year.
“Matt’s legacy and management style lives on at MSA Professional Services,” Palm said in reading a proclamation honoring Pinion, “a firm with national presence with 325 professional and support personnel in 16 offices across six states.”
Pinion said an employee stock ownership program helped MSA compete with Madison firms for engineers. That program has grown ever since, as have many of the initiatives Pinion oversaw.
“There’s an amazing group of people behind me that all participated,” he said. “We made our employees responsible for dealing with the clients, for doing the marketing, for bringing in the work so they had something to do. They all bought into the program.”