Entrepreneur profile: Consulting engineer company owner got start in industry as a child

by Chris Lechuga \ Originally appeared in the El Paso Times 11/28/2010

Before "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work" day became popular, a young Robert Navarro regularly would accompany his father to his contracting jobs. As he watched his father work on various remodeling and addition projects, the would-be El Paso entrepreneur learned construction and engineering.

"I first started working as a very young child, probably 8 or 9 (years old)," Navarro said. "In my mind, I started visualizing structures in three dimensions."

As it turns out, that ability to visualize, Navarro said, is a critical element in structural engineering. Today, he is the president and chief engineer of Robert Navarro & Associates Engineering, Inc., a full-service structural engineering consulting company that has played an integral part in important projects in El Paso and the surrounding area.

Navarro was born in El Paso. His family lived on Oregon Street when he graduated from El Paso High School. He attended Texas Western College, now the University of Texas at El Paso, and earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1961. Through the school's ROTC program, the young graduate served two years in the U.S. Army before enrolling at New Mexico State University to begin work on his master's degree.

While at NMSU, Navarro worked part-time with A.B. Peinado and Sons Engineers, an up-and-coming engineering firm. Operating out of one of the partner's garages, the small business soon expanded as larger projects began to line up. After graduating with a master's degree, he was hired full time by the company and received his professional licenses in New Mexico and Texas.

At Peinado and Sons, Navarro was exposed to the business side of operating an engineering firm.

"I learned about submitting proposals, how to make presentations and how to best serve our clients," he said.

The firm soon began to evolve as the two main partners decided to focus on land development. This presented an opportunity for Navarro to buy out the company so that it would remain an engineering firm. In 1977, it became Navarro and Peinado Consulting Engineers, and it changed to its current name in 1980.

Since then, Robert Navarro and Associates has provided structural engineering design services for local projects, including the Judson F. Williams Convention Center expansion in 2002, the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in 2006, the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Desalination Plant in 2007, and many new buildings at UTEP, including the Larry K. Durham Sports Center in 2002, the Bioscience Research Building in 2005 and the University Parking Facility in 2007.

With his many years of expertise in structural engineering, Navarro has taken on challenging projects with many colleagues from whom he has gained much respect.

"Bob has been a role model on how to be a consulting engineer for many people in El Paso, including myself," said Joe Cardenas, president of Moreno Cardenas Inc. As fellow consulting engineers, he and Navarro have worked together on many projects.

"He's also been very active in promoting the engineering profession," Cardenas said.

Navarro is a member of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, which he served as chairman of the board in 2004. He also holds leadership roles in local and statewide professional engineering organizations.

He said he believes that serving in these business organizations gives him keen insight into the industry.

"Whenever I get involved, I like to get involved right away at a leadership level," Navarro said.

"I don't like to just sit back."