Robert Landino - CEO - Centerplan Companies

Robert Landino is the founder and CEO of Centerplan Companies.  He has directed the development of more than one million square feet of real estate development, construction management and oversight including retail, healthcare, industrial, residential and urban mixed-use projects.

Robert Landino has focused his professional career on the planning, design, and construction of real estate development throughout the United States.  He has worked directly on a variety of urban and mixed-use developments, healthcare developments, residential communities, industrial complexes, and hotels.  Local hiring, employment diversity, and minority contractor inclusion have always been a priority, and Landino works with his partners and team members on these areas.

Prior to his involvement at Centerplan, Robert Landino was the President and Chief Executive at BL Companies, an Engineering News Record (ENR) Top 500 Architect & Engineering firm with offices throughout the northeast and mid-Atlantic states.  he co-founded the firm in 1987, when it began as a two-person consulting practice.  BL Companies grew to employ more than 250 professionals and support staff located in seven offices.  BL Companies has twice been named one of the nation’s 500 fastest growing privately held firms by Inc. Magazine.

Robert Landino also served three terms as a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives until his retirement in 2000.  He represented the towns of Clinton, Essex, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook, and he served as House Chairman of the Banks Committee and Vice Chairman of the Planning and Development and Finance Committees. Landino received a B.S. in civil engineering in 1983, and is a licensed Professional Engineer in several states, including Connecticut. He is extremely active in his community and has been fortunate enough to be involved in multiple Chambers of Commerce, various civic groups, and community organizations that aim to promote and enhance the populations they serve. Robert Landino has won numerous awards throughout his career, including Business Person of the Year by the New Haven Chamber of Commerce.

How did you get started?

For me, it’s all about family. My father [Al Landino] grew up in public housing projects on Grand Avenue in New Haven that were an extension of the Wooster Street neighborhood. After World War II he went to UConn on the GI Bill and chose civil engineering as a profession. As a first-generation Italian-American he was the first member of his family to go to college and he truly was my hero in every respect. He then became the City Engineer of New Haven during the time that “urban renewal” projects were sweeping the country’s city centers. I remember sitting at the dinner table night after night and listening to my father talk about the work they were doing to transform the city, reduce blight, combat chronic poverty, and provide better homes and neighborhoods for the people living there. That was my first introduction to urban planning, real estate and construction… and it was the start of what has become a life-long passion for civil engineering.

What inspired you to start this business?

As I said, it started with my father – watching him, listening to him and soaking up every detail I could. I loved the idea of building things and the connection between public infrastructure and private real estate development. Like my dad, I went to college to become an engineer. When I graduated in 1982, I took a job with a civil engineering design firm in New York City and saw how things worked on the grandest scale possible. About six years later, I came back to Connecticut and my wife (at the time) and I started my first business, BL Companies. We began with just the two of us, one desk and one computer and grew it to over 250 employees with offices in seven states. We quickly became one of the leading civil engineering firms in the region, due in large part to the knowledge I gained from my father and the ability to see the nexus between all the disparate elements that go into successful developments.

Besides my business, I have another passion and that is public service. In 1994 I was elected to the state House of Representatives and would serve there until 2000. My time at the state capitol further fueled my belief that private development could yield a public benefit and would be vital to the future success of the state — especially our urban centers that had been neglected for years.

The example of my father, the values and work ethic he ingrained in me, his love for this country as a first-generation immigrant and veteran, coupled with my passion for public service are the things that inspired me then, and continue to do so now.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

I think that every entrepreneur goes through various high and low points. Sometimes you feel like you’re unstoppable, and other times you feel like the world is crashing. So yes, there were times that I doubted it would work out but we kept moving forward and positive things kept happening. The most important thing is to have strong values at your core that will help you get through those valleys. It’s easy to do the right thing when everything is going well. It’s how you conduct yourself and the decisions we make when times are tough that define us and motivate us to pick ourselves up and keep climbing. My family is my compass, whether it’s the old-world values my parents instilled in my siblings and I, or its being the best father for my children that I can be. Those are the things that have carried me through periods of doubt and continue to help me succeed.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?

We like to really highlight our work and show the level of detail that goes into our projects. We put a lot of emphasis on digital marketing because it’s trackable, and can change at the pace we need. I have over 25000 followers on LinkedIn and try to put content out there as well.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

I think my determination and the fact that I won’t give up has helped contribute to my business success. And the fact that we’ve been able to take some risks has helped as well.  We were an early adopter of solar energy capabilities as an investment and have been able to grow our business in that sector. If you’re not constantly moving forward then you are going to get left behind, and that’s true in any business. Whether it was BL Companies or with Centerplan, I was constantly evaluating how we can provide a superior service to our clients.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

My most satisfying moment has been when we were able to purchase and develop the land where my father grew up in New Haven. It was always his dream to be able to leave his legacy in his hometown, and so that for me was an incredibly satisfying moment. I think every son or daughter can relate.

What does the future hold for your business?

We continue to develop properties around New England and the country, we are especially interested in multi-use projects where we can bring our expertise to both our clients and the community to offer real value. The real estate industry is changing and property use is evolving as well. It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and make sure we are at the forefront of what people need and want.

The urban areas of the Northeast have experienced a steady decline over the past 30 years as the industries that grew up here moved to states with a more favorable tax and business environment (or they simply went out of business altogether). Yes, New York and Boston continue to thrive, but there are many smaller cities that are prime candidates for redevelopment. I believe that forward-thinking real estate development companies are uniquely positioned to play a leading role in helping restore vibrance to many of these cities.

What are you most excited about?

I have a few upcoming projects that I’m excited to begin, and I’m always excited to spend time with my family and friends. Now that the kids are older, it is becoming more of a reality that they won’t always be home with us so I’m trying to enjoy as much time with them as I can.

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