A native of Harrisburg, Pa., Bob Grubic has deep roots in central Pennsylvania.

A 49-year veteran of engineering firm Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, he remained in his hometown his entire career and built a business that today has a broad reach across the entire commonwealth. While the firm now tops $40 million in revenue annually, under Grubic’s leadership, HRG remained committed to the numerous small townships and counties it has served for decades. Although he recently retired as CEO, Grubic continues to support local community groups. Given his long career of helping clients succeed and his interest in fostering a generation of community focused professionals, ENR MidAtlantic has named Bob Grubic its 2023 Legacy Award recipient.

While the midsize firm built a portfolio of work with clients of all sizes, public clients still represent 75% of its business, particularly county and municipal ones. As company revenue has grown in recent years, its work with these public clients has expanded as well. HRG now claims to work with more municipalities and municipal agencies than any other engineering firm in the commonwealth.

Grubic says the firm’s ability to work with clients of all sizes is part of what sets HRG apart. “Most of our clients are laypeople,” he says. “You can’t talk high tech. That’s what has separated us from some of our competition is our ability to communicate at the grassroots level.”

Grubic reviews engineering plans

Grubic reviews engineering plans at a community meeting with stakeholders in the early 2000s.
Photo courtesy of HRG

Humble Beginnings

Those capabilities were borne from the firm’s earliest days. After graduating from Villanova with a degree in civil engineering, Grubic joined the firm—then Herbert and Associates—in 1973 as its eighth employee. The firm had its own humble beginnings, starting in a one room storefront. Grubic’s first office was a desk in the break room. From the start, Grubic says the firm’s founders established a tradition to provide great service to its clients, regardless of size.

As a young member of a growing firm, Grubic was allowed to prove himself both on projects and as a leader. Five years after joining the firm, he became a partner. From 1981 to 1988, he served as vice president, then executive vice president. In 1989, he was named president of the firm, a position he held until 2018, when he transitioned to CEO.

Notable municipal assignments include township engineer for Susquehanna Township, Pa.; consulting engineer in Lower Paxton Township, Pa.; and county engineer in Dauphin County, Pa.

Under his leadership, the company grew significantly. Today, HRG has more than 300 employees in multiple locations around the region, and the firm is available to offer full-service civil engineering and related services.

Although the firm’s capabilities grew considerably over the years, many of the clients it serves remained. One of its most critical offerings it established under Grubic’s leadership was the capability to help communities find ways to fund projects.

“One of the best training grounds you can get is going to a municipal meeting.”
—Bob Grubic, HRG

“A smaller client may have $50 million in needs, but we are able to work with them to establish a capital improvement plan that finds ways to fund them over 10 years,” he says. “We are able to identify funding opportunities and help pursue them, be they grant applications or programs available through state and federal sources.”

In many cases, Grubic remained actively involved with some of those smaller clients, even as CEO. “As firms grow, they tend to be less involved and move into a different role,” says Jeff Haste, a retired public official who worked with Grubic for decades. “A few years ago, Bob was still going to township board meetings at night. He didn’t pass that on to a younger engineer. He remained extremely loyal to some of those clients that had been with him from when he was a young engineer.”

Still, young engineers do have opportunities to engage with municipal clients at HRG, Grubic says. It’s a valuable part of the practice that he hopes to instill in others.

“One of the best training grounds you can get is going to a municipal meeting and identifying how these things work,” he says. “That’s not something you learn in engineering school.”

Boyd Park Pavilion

Boyd Park Pavilion in Susquehanna Township in Dauphin County, Pa., was among the many projects Grubic oversaw. Susquehanna Township has been a longtime client of HRG.
Photo courtesy of HRG

Guiding Young Professionals

As a leader and mentor, Grubic worked to keep new hires and young professionals grounded in the traditions of the firm and the discipline. As a young engineer, he gleaned a lot of knowledge and practical experience from working directly with contractors in the field. “We try to get our younger people—the ones that who have not been exposed to what’s going on in the field—out to project sites with either our surveyors or our construction project representatives and work with them just to see how projects get built,” he says. “If they see how a project gets built out and understand how the contractors work with the drawings that we prepare, it makes them better designers.”

“The fact that HRG’s employee-owners have risen to meet every opportunity and [have]united to overcome every challenge is attributed to our ESOP culture that Bob created.”
— Jason Fralick, HRG

Although Grubic advocates for providing opportunities to young engineers, he tries to avoid “looking over their shoulders” and micro-managing them. Along the way, he encourages them to find the career path that best suits them, rather than dictating where they should focus their efforts.

“My management philosophy is to be able to bring the best people in, let them know what the expectations are, let them know what the limits of the playing field are, mentor them, help them along and let them know that we are there to help,” he says. “I want to give them the opportunity to feel unconstrained—to be able to expand their career within HRG. I want everybody to be able to let us all know what their career expectations are. Then we can be proactive to help them attain those career goals. That is one of the best retention tools we have.”

Bub Manning, a former principal at Quandel Construction, who is now an HRG board member, says he has always been particularly impressed by Grubic’s management style. “He was always pretty darn good at hiring,” he says. “Once he brought them onboard, it was a bit of a hands-off approach. He let you know that they were there to support you and then let go. That made it an enjoyable place to work, a rewarding place. People feel both comfortable and challenged.”

Celebrating an employee

Celebrating an employee at a retirement event in the early 2000s, Grubic is recognized as a leader and adviser, providing guidance, supporting business development initiatives and engaging with clients and the community.
Photo courtesy of HRG

Employee Owned

Arguably one of his most lasting legacies at HRG was his initiative to establish an employee stock ownership plan in 2008, setting a path to transfer ownership to every HRG employee. Jason Fralick, president of HRG, says that, as owners, employees are motivated to help the firm succeed, which helped HRG dig out of the depths of the Great Recession of 2008. “The ESOP has been instrumental to HRG’s success, especially our ability to attract and retain exceptionally talented people,” says Jason Fralick, president of HRG. “The fact that HRG’s employee-owners have risen to meet every opportunity and [have] united to overcome every challenge is attributed to our ESOP culture that Bob created.”

Beyond HRG, Grubic is an active member of the engineering and business community. He has held leadership positions in several professional and community organizations, including the Pennsylvania State Registration Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists; the Harrisburg Chapter of the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers; the Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce; Harrisburg Builders Exchange; Central Penn College; Mid Penn Bank; The Foundation for Enhancing Communities; and Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.

Working with young engineers at his alma mater, Villanova University, has also been one of Grubic’s passions. Last year, Grubic was recognized by Villanova’s dean of the College of Engineering with a Professional Achievement Award.

Grubic officially retired from day-to-day operations at HRG on Dec. 31, but he remains chairman of the board today. Although he is retired, Grubic doesn’t view it as an ending, but a transition. He still has a relationship with the company and says he can support HRG in the general business community as an ambassador for the firm.

“I look at retirement not as packing up, turning the lights off and leaving the building, but as a transition to something else,” he says. “I’ve been in business for many years, and I feel like I still add value to the company. I still get a lot of satisfaction being able to watch people grow and succeed, just from a different perspective now. That is a priceless asset to me.”