Prior to his family’s arrival in the United States, Sam Sebaali trained in judo. In fact, he was an Olympic hopeful.
“It was good in terms of discipline,” says Sebaali, president and CEO of Florida Engineering Group, Inc. Sebaali’s family moved to Louisiana in 1980, fleeing the turbulence of their native Lebanon’s ongoing civil war. He was in his teens at the time.
“I had to give up a lot of these things and ended up focusing mostly on school, on my education …. But I think the discipline of judo carried through with me.”
Clearly. Sebaali’s experience spans all areas of civil engineering; he has been personally responsible for more than 400 successful development projects. These days, he juggles multiple jobs in various stages with aplomb. Although the field didn’t speak to him directly as a boy, Sebaali’s natural gift for math made it an appealing choice and in retrospect, he says, a good fit.
Not surprisingly, he says of the early 1980s, the culture shift from Lebanon to Louisiana was pronounced.
“It was interesting,” Sebaali said, “but as a teenager, you adapt quickly.” He earned graduate and undergrad degrees in civil engineering at Louisiana Tech University, leaving the Bayou State for Orlando in 1985.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth here since then,” said the Baldwin Park resident. “We still had the old City Hall, and I’m pretty sure the first year I came here they were building the SunTrust Building downtown, so I got to see part of the skyline’s growth.” Though well-traveled, Sebaali believes Orlando is one of the world’s best cities in terms of what it offers.
“Recreation, tourism, family life,” he rattles off easily. “Even now, we’re seeing so much growth here and from a professional standpoint, the city is in a great place – the best place – when it comes to opportunity and the ability to grow a business.”
Sebaali spends his off hours enjoying moderate activities – heading out to the beach, the occasional game of tennis, and cycling the trails of the greater metro. He makes sure to get in the latter at least once a week. “I’ve ridden out in Clermont and Winter Garden,” he says, “but I live in Baldwin Park and we have the Cady Way Trail – so that’s usually where I ride. It’s close to home.”
So, too, are the lures of nearby Park Avenue, where date night could find him enjoying a glass of wine at one of Armando’s’ sidewalk tables, people-watching with his wife.
Dedicated leisure time notwithstanding, one of Sebaali’s favorite pastimes is staying on top of his game.
“I like to spend time looking at real estate and always try to keep up with what’s going on because it affects our business. And honestly, I enjoy everything we do at work.”
Seeing the projects F.E.G. has in motion, and those they have contributed to, is what motivates him. At press time, the Westminster Senior Living Center in Baldwin Park and a new I-Drive apartment complex were among the projects he was stalking.
“That’s really my biggest reward: driving around Central Florida and seeing projects we’ve been involved with come to life. It’s what I most enjoy. It brings everything into focus for me, because the clients get the benefit of our work and I feel like we are a part of the growth of the community.”