Finding opportunities: Leo Rubio

May 12, 2024

President and CEO of Bennett Engineering Services + Y&C Transportation Consultants, a firm that provides enduring and award-winning civil engineering services.

By Liisa Andreassen

In January 2023, Bennett Engineering Services and Y&C Transportation Consultants merged – and Rubio reports things are going well. The merger has allowed both companies to cast a wider net by providing more services to each other’s existing clients. Bennett Engineering Services remains its legal name.

“We understand the low success rate with mergers but, after more than one year, we have seen only exceptional growth,” Rubio says. “Our success is a result of building a solid partnership with Y&C over the years before our merger. Of course, we’re always looking at ways to improve our systems and culture, but we learn from one another to make our team better as the company continues to grow.”

The strength of Bennett+Y&C’s culture plays an important role in its success, and Rubio credits all of the firm’s employees for that. Taking care of staff and creating a safe and fun place to work is a big part of this business’ culture. Rubio says they encourage team-building exercises (e.g., a solar-powered car building competition last fall); employee recognition; professional development via Bennett Academy; and external training opportunities to build skills, expertise, and value.

Helping communities hits close to home. As a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, Rubio shares that helping communities in need is “important to us.” That’s why the company volunteers and fundraises for charitable organizations throughout the year. They also work closely with their clients and funding agencies such as SACOG, Caltrans, USDA, SRF, and more to identify a project for a grant that fits all of the criteria to be competitive.

“We help local agencies prepare preliminary designs, assist with outreach efforts, and with grant applications,” he says.

To be competitive for certain grants, many applicants invest in the project and have gained community support. And, depending on the grant – equity, safety, water quality, urban greening, and/or GHG reduction may factor into the selection.

“Our pride comes from seeing the impact our work has on the community,” he says.

As a recent example, the firm supported the City of Sacramento in acquiring millions of dollars for the Franklin Boulevard Complete Street project. The city is taking great strides to transform Franklin Boulevard into a corridor that offers more opportunities for alternative transportation while celebrating local diversity and showcasing business establishments and amenities. The project goal is to build the identity of the business corridor, improve access and safety for pedestrians and cyclists, and to infuse the area with a sense of placemaking that works to ultimately strengthen the diverse community and individual businesses.

City, county, and neighborhood business leaders also share the vision to transform the boulevard into a destination that celebrates local diversity and showcases its many culinary and business establishments.

Together, Rubio and the Bennett+Y&C team are intent on bringing this effort to fruition and witnessing the impact it has on the community. An employee survey – conducted about a year ago – mirrors the overall firm philosophy. Employees highlighted how important contributing to a community’s services is to them – creating solid infrastructure, safer communities, and providing clean water, among other things.

Prepping for the future. From hiring challenges to an evolving transportation industry, Bennett+Y&C is fielding these challenges by being proactive and working to stay one step ahead. The company participates in recruiting events, looking for qualified individuals, and also offers mentorship and training courses to its employees.

Rubio says that one of the undertakings he’s most excited about is Bennett Academy – a resource extended to all employees that encourages professional development. Every individual has a growth path if they so choose – they can gain hands-on experience in a variety of projects and the potential to move into project management, technical-focused roles, and other opportunities.

“We are training for consistency without losing creativity,” he says. “We are striving to strengthen the company’s foundation by improving customer service, our knowledge base, and overall – the quality of our services.”

Another venture that has him excited has to do with the company’s direction – a direct result of their merger with Y&C. Prior to the merger, Bennett Engineering Services mostly served the Northern California area, but with Y&C’s presence in the market, they’re now providing more services to Bay Area clients.

What keeps Rubio and the company busy these days is the transportation and water resources industries – roadway systems that support new and autonomous vehicles, improvements to aging infrastructure, and traffic management. Aging infrastructure above and below ground is also having trouble keeping up with climate change that causes flooding and there’s a need for more stormwater management.

To combat the issues regarding infrastructure and traffic management, the company uses the latest technology such as roller-compacted concrete, and it’s looking to transform core systems and implementing AI in Intelligent Transportation Systems. These ITS include surveillance cameras, vehicle detection systems, traffic signal coordination systems, electronic toll collection and toll pricing systems, and other traffic management systems.

Overall, Rubio sees opportunities where there are challenges and will continue to keep the company flexible for whatever comes its way.

“We have great clients and an incredible team. Together, we can accomplish great things,” he says. 

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.