How Jose Ramon Was Made Mastec the First Coral Gables-Based Firm to Join the Fortune 500
By Doreen Hemlock
It’s a remarkable feat to take a company with less than $1 billion in annual sales and lead it to top $6 billion in a single decade. José R. Mas has done just that, landing the construction venture founded by his hard-scrabble immigrant father onto the prestigious Fortune 500 list of the nation’s largest businesses.
MasTec appears to be the first company founded by a Cuban-American to make Fortune magazine’s iconic list and the first from Coral Gables. The infrastructure builder moved its headquarters from Doral in 2004.
How did Mas do it? Since becoming CEO at just 36 years old, the humble leader has been seizing on opportunities in new technologies. His dad, Jorge Mas Canosa, started out in construction mainly for phone companies. José has expanded into projects for electric companies, wireless telecom, renewable energy, and oil & gas customers. Today, telecom no longer represents the bulk of MasTec revenue. About 60 percent comes from energy – including building transmission lines, wind turbines, solar farms and oil pipelines.
Mas and his team also target emerging technologies to keep their business evolving. They’re now keen on building for 5G wireless systems, battery storage for sun and wind energy, and the deployment of sensors vital for driverless cars and other super-fast, mobile applications.
“When you think about the next 10 or 15 years, we’re going to be living differently than today. How? We don’t really know yet. But it’s our job as a company to find what those technological advances will be and how we can play a role in helping develop and build that,” says Mas.
Key to the dynamism: hardy immigrant roots, says Mas. His eyes mist up remembering his late father, who came to the United States at age 19 with no English, no money and no college degree, and worked as a shoe salesman, stevedore and milkman before getting a chance to run a tiny firm digging ditches for phone companies. His dad eventually bought that venture, named Church & Tower for its two founders, Iglesias and Torres. José recalls his father working late and sometimes struggling to make payroll.
“I saw the intensity he had, the desire to succeed,” Mas says lovingly. “I wake up every single day and I think about the sacrifices that so many people made before me – my parents, for one, because they left everything behind. My mother never saw her parents again when she left Cuba. They put everything on the line, so their children could have a better future,” says Mas, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Miami. “So many people in this community went through the same thing. Every day, I think about our obligation to continue that legacy forward and to continue making that legacy proud.” He calls that immigrant drive and hunger to prosper “our biggest competitive advantage” for business in greater Miami, where roughly half the residents are foreign-born.
MasTec now employs 350 people in Coral Gables, part of their 22,000 full- and part-time staff in 400 permanent locales across the United States, Canada and Mexico. Mas says he tries to motivate employees to be innovative, too. “My management style is to give people plenty of room to manage their own business and make decisions, but at the same time, with a high level of accountability,” he says. Mas went as far as to participate in the television program “Undercover Boss” in 2012, to better understand what makes his workers tick.
To foster team spirit, MasTec recently opened an employee lounge at its headquarters on South Douglas Road, where staff can work, enjoy free coffee and buy $5 catered lunches, among other perks. “We want this to be a very collaborative workstyle,” says Mas, “where people can feel entrepreneurial and part of a family.”
I wake up every single day and I think about the sacrifices that so many people made before me – my parents, for one, because they left everything behind…
Outside the office, Mas also aims to give back. The longtime Coral Gables resident serves on the executive board for the nonprofit United Way of Miami-Dade County. He’s also active with the Mas Family Foundation, which so far has given college scholarships to more than 230 students of Cuban descent. One thing he’s not busy with is politics, unlike his crusader dad, who co-founded and led the Cuban American National Foundation.
Many Wall Street analysts are bullish on MasTec. They spot growth opportunities for the company in oil and gas projects in Texas, in 5G telecom nationwide, and in Puerto Rico, where MasTec already has won an initial $500 million contract to help rebuild the island’s hurricane-ravaged electric grid.
“We see tailwinds behind each of MasTec’s business units in 2018,” said a Stifel analyst team led by Noelle C. Dilts in a recent report, reiterating a “Buy” rating on the stock. Stifel, a global investment banking firm with offices in Miami, forecasts a 7 percent compound annual growth rate for MasTec’s net operating income over the next three years.
This year, Mas expects company revenues to reach a record $7 billion. Yet he has no plans to double sales or hit other revenue targets over the next decade. “We’re not trying to reach a particular goal. It’s about being a leader in the industries we serve,” including energy and telecom, he says. “What’s exciting … is moving into those businesses where our industries go and where the dollars flow.”
Founded: 1994, through the union of two companies Church & Tower and Burnup & Sims.
Headquarters: Coral Gables. Moved from Doral in 2004.
Financials: Record $6.6 billion in revenue and $347 million in net income in 2017. Trades on New York Stock Exchange since 1998 as MTZ.
Employees: 22,000 full- and part-time in North America, including roughly 350 in Coral Gables.
CEO: José R. Mas Santos, 47, son of Cuba-born founder Jorge Mas Canosa.
Community links: Mas serves on the executive board of United Way for Miami-Dade County. Also, helps lead the Mas Family Foundation.