If you live in South Florida, you’ve likely walked on or driven over the work of Jones Benitez Corporation.
Jones Benitez Corporation, or JBC, is a construction company specializing in highway and heavy civil construction projects. The company’s work has included highway bridge widening projects, sea wall reconstruction, roadway improvements and more.
In 2013 business owners, Jeff Jones and Yvette Benitez, started Jones Benitez Corporation. They brought with them 20 years of industry experience as they each had worked for large players in the construction industry. Prior to opening their business together, Ms. Benitez and Mr. Jones met during their Professional Engineering review class. After several years of working opposite of each other on projects, “We thought it was about time that we branched off and started doing this for ourselves,” said Ms. Benitez.
Ms. Benitez grew up in a construction family. As a child she was daddy’s little helper, assisting him with everything from backyard projects to observing him design and build their family home. Her interest in building and construction accelerated as a teenager. In 1992, Ms. Benitez experienced first-hand devastation when Hurricane Andrew destroyed their family home. They had to relocate, and she watched as her father rebuild their home a second time. These events inspired Ms. Benitez to hone in on her passion for construction. She applied and was accepted to the Design and Architecture Senior High School (DASH), an award-winning Miami Dade County Public Magnet School. She continued her laser-focused education by attending prestigious upper level academies. Ms. Benitez earned Bachelor’s in Architectural Engineering from the University of Miami and a Master’s in Civil Engineering from Cornell University. Mr. Jones is a graduate from Auburn University and maintains the General Contractor license for the Corporation.
When Ms. Benitez and Mr. Jones set out on their own, they began bidding on relatively small projects in the world of government contracting. This was a humbling experience since they were used to working on projects over tens of millions of dollars from our previous positions. JBC started with single sidewalk project for North Miami, and increased the scope of work with larger and larger projects. Building on that foundation, JBC has grown to running several multiple multi-million dollar projects concurrently.
With all the infrastructure needs, the jobs keep coming – even during the pandemic. Most of their projects have been in the tri-county area but they currently have projects in the Panhandle and West Florida. The majority of JBC’s contracting work is with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), although the company has had contracts with Broward County, Port of Miami, Miami-Dade Sewer and Water, Miami-Dade Parks and the Cities of Aventura and North Miami, among other government entities. Ms. Benitez’ advice for other entrepreneurs pursuing government contracting comes down to three important words: “Know your numbers.”
Currently, a big challenge has been hiring to keep up with the workload. During the pandemic, Ms. Benitez said, “our company, and our industry, was not shut down. We were encouraged to continue working since we impact the traveling public.”
Luckily, JBC has been able to turn to Florida SBDC at FIU for help with business development. FSBDC at FIU, the small business development center within the University’s College of Business, offers no-cost business consulting and training for small businesses in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. During the pandemic, FSBDC at FIU has also increased its educational offerings, particularly webinars that can be accessed anytime.
JBC has been working with FSBDC consultants since 2018. In particular, they work with Raju Mohandas, an FSBDC consultant and finance specialist, whom Ms. Benitez met when she participated in the Emerging Leaders program where he was a mentor. He has helped her with financials, because as she says, even though she’s good with numbers, sometimes the bankers and accountants speak a different language. Mohandas helps with the interpretation of what they need and how the information should be organized, she said.
She has also received Human Resource (HR) advice from the FSBDC at FIU team, an important aspect to their business development. The HR advice was especially important during Covid-19 when much of the company’s policies and handbooks needed updating to keep up with current events. Consultants have also helped JBC work through particular HR situations amid COVID-19. “The team is always helpful with providing the right connections when needed”, she said.
JBC value and appreciate FSBDC at FIU’s “just-in-time” help during the pandemic and earlier, as well as Mohandas’ advice about financials. Having those resources has helped JBC build a successful company.
She says a company’s success is really about the people. Ms. Benitez credits her team – not only her business partner but also her supervisors and employees in the field, some of whom have been with JBC for 5 years or more. “It’s about having the right people in the field, working together, and growing with us.”