President & CEO
Safe Haven Enterprises LLC
Bachelor’s degree in Education,
McNeese State University, Lake Charles
Planning out her business on a napkin, Alta Baker knew she was taking a big risk by creating a woman-owned startup in what traditionally has been a man’s world.
Nonetheless, she began to feel a strong calling in the late 1990s after scrambling with the rest of her team—she worked for her family’s construction business at the time—to escape a hazardous gas release in a Gulf Coast petrochemical plant.
Then, six months later, she had to run from a waterspout as it barreled toward her jobsite. “Like never before, I needed shelter … some protection,” says Baker, president and CEO of Safe Haven Enterprises LLC in Jennings. “It was then that I knew some sort of protective structure was needed to save lives. Physical protection became my business and my passion.”
She created her first fire and blast resistant modular building to protect her own team while working in a plant.
Later, Safe Haven found itself supplying buildings to petrochemical facilities, offshore platforms and war zones around the globe. It was a Safe Haven building workers stayed in to shut down the plant after the recent Williams Olefin explosion in Geismar.
The company also provides Forced Entry/Ballistic Resistant (FE/BR) products for U.S. embassies and consulates.
Along the way, Alta has become a major proponent for other female-owned enterprises, serving on the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s board of directors and as past chairman of the National Women’s Enterprise Leadership Forum. In 2002, she received the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Louisiana Economic Development’s Lantern Award for leadership, dedication and commitment to excellence.
10/12 Industry Report sat down with Baker to ask her about the challenges and rewards of working as a WBE in Louisiana’s industrial market.
What do you find most challenging about working in the industrial space?
In the beginning, it was about getting people to realize that I knew what I was doing. We just needed them to open that door and give us a crack, and if we couldn’t provide what they needed, they could go to someone else.
Safe Haven is a certified WBE. These certifications are nice to have, but I don’t want people to focus on that. I can stand on my own. It makes a big difference when they realize that I don’t need the certification to get the job; that we can do it and we know what we’re doing.
Most of the women you run across in industry are pretty tough because they have to be. That’s why we’re finding a bond through WBENC and other organizations. We’re finally realizing that we don’t need to stand alone. We can help each other.
Any best practices that you would like to share?
If you’re a young lady starting out and you’re deciding on a career, you better like what you do. This has been a rewarding process for me, but it has s been a lot of work. If I didn’t like what I do, I couldn’t put the same amount of time and effort into it.
We do a lot of the impossible. The more impossible it sounds the more our people seem to like it. We were in Baghdad less than 24 hours after the fall of Saddam Hussein with buildings and mobile communications centers in Iraq.
More recently in Beirut, we installed maximum security buildings for the U.S. government during the pandemic and recent explosion at the port there. The hotels were closing, the restaurants were closing because the country was in lock down. We had 12 hours to find our people transportation out of the country, and we did. In fact, a woman-owned business based there literally finished the job under our direction.
What do you find most rewarding about your line of work?
That’s a pretty easy answer: I save lives by supplying blast resistant buildings for petrochemical and offshore, and ballistic-resistant buildings for the federal government.
In Lake Charles, we fabricated the Calcasieu 911 facility before Hurricane Rita and it quite literally saved lives. We also fabricated and installed bunkers in New Orleans for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prior to Hurricane Katrina. Today, the industry is much more aware of the need for this, so Safe Haven provides modular buildings and permanent facilities from concept to engineering to installation. We cover the entire gamut now with my engineering group here.