1997 Trenchless Technology Person-of-the-Year: Leo Barbera
March 1, 1997“It doesn’t do any good to have knowledge if you don’t share it with somebody.” That motto and the commitment to trenchless equipment design, training and education that it represents has driven Leo Barbera throughout his years in the industry.
Leo has more than three decades of auger boring, manufacturing and contracting experience as co-founder of American Augers Inc. and founder of Horizontal Holes International Inc. With his well-known passions for horses and trenchless technology, Leo is a recognized and respected figure in the industry.
Leo is very visible in trenchless technology through his work with industry associations. He is head of NUCA’s Trenchless Technology Committee; a member of NASTT and former chairman of NASTT’s Horizontal Earth Boring Committee; and a member of AGC.
A horse trainer by trade in his younger days, asthma forced Leo to stop training in 1967. But contacts from his former business led him to Richmond Manufacturing Co., which offered him an entrance into the auger boring business.
By 1970, Leo decided he was ready to go into business for himself as a boring contractor. Leo formed American Augers in 1971 with two partners.
Leo bought out his partners in 1974, and led the Ohio-company until 1989. By the time he left American Augers, the company’s sales had grown to $7.5 million, and the employee count had grown from seven in 1973 to 72 in 1989.
American Augers became a success with its customers by not being obsessed with the bottom line, Leo said. The whole push behind the company was the quality of machine, customer service and education.
“There was no one in the business really advancing the auger boring industry. We were the only one,” he said. The company distinguished itself by adding horsepower and thrust, and building a more stable design with a lower centerline, he said. In addition, concerns about ease of repair weighed into the product design process.
With more than 30 years in auger boring sales, manufacturing and contracting, Leo hasn’t rested on his reputation. He is always looking for new challenges, and his latest is focusing on his new company Horizontal Equipment Manufacturing Inc., based in the former American Augers location in Wooster, Ohio.
The manufacturing company will build multi-purpose units, Leo said one machine that can accommodate different front ends for auger boring, microtunneling and pipe jacking. The machines will have inertial or laser guidance systems that Leo has tested over the past few years.
Whether as a contractor, manufacturer, trenchless teacher or golfer, Leo Barbera is sure to throw himself into whatever challenges lie ahead. “It’s fun,” he said of his career. “I know I’m having fun.”
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