Al Rubeling was a 26-year-old architect when he pooled his life savings of $2,000 and opened his own firm.
“I was an entrepreneur and I didn’t know it,” said Rubeling, now 63 and a leader in an organization larger than he ever imagined.
Rubeling had grown Rubeling & Associates to a local force when it was acquired in 2014 by Hunt Valley-based Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson Inc., or JMT, an employee-owned, multi-disciplinary engineering and design firm with more than 1,500 employees in 37 offices.
The move has allowed the community-oriented company to do bigger and more kinds of projects, he said.
Albert W. Rubeling Jr., however, could have gone a different way. He was a good baseball player and his father played professioanlly but urged his son not to leave college to pursue a sports career. He told his son he regretted leaving Towson University after a year, though he played four years in the major leagues and is a member of the institution's Athletic Hall of Fame.
The younger Rubeling said he always enjoyed drawing and problem solving, which he thought made him a natural for architecture. Rubeling got an architecture degree from the University of Maryland, and now teaches classes there about the business side of running a firm.
His goal in starting a business was to make what he was earning at his first job: $16,000. He doubled that in his first year.
JMT first came calling in 2004 and Rubeling turned the bigger firm down. But after collaborating more with JMT and seeing the potential opportunities in a larger platform and more resources, he said yes when the firm asked again a decade later.
Rubeling had been designing fire and police stations, schools and other community buildings and expanded into transportation projects with the backing of JMT. And now that JMT Architecture has recently acquired another firm, RCG, the firm is moving more into higher education.
He expects JMT Architecture to continue searching out quality companies and adding to the business, giving him and the architects and interior designers among his 30-member staff in his Towson office more opportunities to show their skills.
“This has been a really nice way of trying to grow something,” Rubeling said. “Not that bigger is always better. We still want to enhance the quality of lives of our clients, but we’re able to do more of it in more places.”