If local governments handed out MVP awards to their community members, Jorge Gutierrez of Woodstock, Virginia would surely be in contention. Four years ago, after 26 years of service, he retired from the United States Army and opened his own consulting business, BMOC Group, which is estimated to generate around $10 million in revenue this year alone and employs 16 part- and full-time employees. Now he spends his days helping other companies—most of them local businesses like his own—reach their financial and operational goals. At night, he’s studying for his PhD in Organizational Leadership at Shenandoah University in Winchester. When he is afforded a rare moment of spare time, he volunteers with veterans and the United Way.
Of course, before he could do all that—contribute to his local community in economically and socially responsible ways—Gutierrez had to get here, to the United States of America.
That almost didn’t happen.
On April 6, 1973, Gutierrez and his family were on the second-to-last flight out of Cuba before the decades-long travel ban between the communist country and the United States went into effect.
We cannot forget our country’s growth has been based on immigration.
“Leaving Cuba, the place where we were born, was never something that we intended to do,” recalls Gutierrez, whose family was sent to America after his father, a political activist, was released from a seven-year prison sentence. “We loved our country—your country of birth is always very important to you. But the ideology of the government was not something that we could reconcile in terms of our freedom, liberties, or religious beliefs.”
Gutierrez was 12 when his family immigrated to the United States, and the five of them spent that first year sleeping in the living room of another family member’s home. For the next several years, Gutierrez went to school during the day and worked odd jobs at night to help provide for his family. As the pressure to make ends meet mounted, he dropped out of school, just one year shy of graduation. At 19, he enrolled in the Army. He calls this “the best decision I ever made.”
Between 1980 and 2006, Gutierrez completed two combat tours and was stationed in Europe, South Korea, and Germany. He earned his BA, started a Master’s (which he later completed at Thomas Edison University in Trenton, New Jersey), and married “a gal from Pennsylvania who doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish.” Years later, the couple settled in Woodstock to start their business.
“We’re having a blast, working very hard, and helping a lot of people,” says Gutierrez of BMOC Group. They started off big—their first client had an annual revenue of $25 million and 200 employees. And since then, their roster has grown to include 16 companies, including a startup they’re about to take public and a company with average annual income of $40 million.
“We’re continuing to learn and grow and live the American dream of owning your own business and going after your own dreams,” says Gutierrez. “It’s a privilege to be able to do it in this country.”
It’s a privilege Gutierrez believes other immigrants should be able to experience as well.
“We cannot forget our country’s growth has been based on immigration,” he says. “My family was heartbroken when we were rejected by our countrymen in Cuba, but we were able to come to a new country that embraced us as immigrants. And we now think of the United States as our country. Should everybody be accepted here? I don’t know. But as a businessman I would like to get the best and the brightest here so we can have them add value to our culture. Our current system is not working. We have to do something to fix it. And that responsibility lies within our leaders.”