MIAMI—It's not always easy for people who emigrate to the U.S. to find a home and career they are comfortable with.
Fortunately for Miguel Velazquez, that wasn't the case when he brought his family to the U.S. in 2010. He was able to continue his lifelong career in the hose industry, first as co-owner of a distribution business and then, a few years later, taking a job with Jason Industrial, a longtime vendor of his.
Velazquez, now director of product management for fluid power at Jason Industrial, began his career in the hose industry no differently than countless others have all over the globe: by entering the family business. His father and some partners owned a manufacturing and distribution company in Venezuela.
When Velazquez attended college in the U.S., he graduated from Louisiana State University with a bachelor's in industrial engineering.
"I already knew I would follow in my father's footsteps and go into the family business," he said. "I graduated in May 1987 and started working in the family business July 1."
The company manufactured all types of hoses, including industrial, automotive and hydraulic. It also had a distribution arm that was the selling branch for the factory.
"I basically grew into that business, and I was fortunate my father could retire at a fairly early age, when he was about 58," Velazquez said.
He took over the business, managing the manufacturing side of things for about 12 years. In 1997-98, the family sold the manufacturing branch to Goodyear, but continued running the distribution side. That's when they became a distributor for Jason Industrial, which would play a key role in his career later.
But in 2010, because of political and economic unrest in Venezuela, he decided it was time to leave. He moved his family, including his wife and three sons—two of whom already were studying in the U.S.—to Miami.
While going through the immigration process to make sure everything was set up legally, Velazquez had time to search and think about what he wanted to do. He decided to stay in the hose business. "I thought emigrating was hard enough, without trying to get into a new path," he said. "For me, staying in the same industry was probably going to make it easier."
So he and a partner opened up a distribution company in South Florida, basically to keep servicing the customers they left in Venezuela. It went well for awhile. They had a good customer base, distributing Goodyear and Jason Industrial products, among others.
But it came to a point where keeping the business going was difficult. It was easy to sell anything you could ship there, but because of the currency issues, it became difficult to collect.
Because of that—and some personal issues—his business partner had to move, and they decided to call it quits.
When this happened, Philip Cohenca, then president of Jason Industrial, called on Velazquez, who had been a customer of Jason's for 20 years or more.
"He knew I was shutting down my business, and he reached out and brought me aboard, initially to put some order and reorganize the Latin American side of the hose business," said Velazquez, who joined the firm in May 2016.
He didn't even have to relocate from Miami, as Cohenca said that was the perfect location from which to manage the Latin American business. "My wife loved that, because this is the closest she can be to Latin America by being in the U.S.," he said.
Jason now is part of the Ammega Group and Cohenca has retired, but Velazquez moved up to his new position to manage the fluid power division. "It's been a fun ride," he said. "I've been in the business 33 years going on 34. Once you get in, it's very difficult to get out."