“We are growing a little too fast now, it’s even scary,” confesses Vladimir Breton, a naturalized U.S. citizen who immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2002. His plumbing and construction businesses have approximately 25 employees and contractors, most of whom are Americans. They’ve been up and running for four years. As a master plumber and licensed general contractor, Breton’s companies serve hotels and private homes across Florida. “Everything has been great,” Breton says. “We don’t do much advertising because we don’t need it — we’re too busy! That’s a blessing.”
At the age of 21, Breton became chief engineer at the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic. It was a good job, but as a government employee he risked being fired when a new administration came in. He decided to move to New York, where he married a U.S. citizen and obtained residency. The couple moved to Florida to raise their children. There, Breton apprenticed for eight years alongside another general contractor, learning the ropes and gaining valuable experience. He eventually became managing supervisor.
But then Breton chose to strike out on his own. He took the required state tests, got licensed, and launched Optimum Plumbing. “People think that it’s easier working on your own, but it’s more challenging,” he says. “It’s a bigger commitment because of all the people working for me. A lot of families depend on me now, so I have to work harder every day.” Still, he’s thrilled that his business has blossomed. Breton starts his workday at 5 in the morning, and typically doesn’t come home until 9 at night. “I’m trying to stop that now, because it’s not been good for my family,” he says with a chuckle. “Every time that I eat with them, I’m just talking about business. That’s not good.”
We need to have more ways so people who are hardworking and ambitious can come here.
Despite the success of his own business, Breton sees the challenges that U.S. immigration policy creates for others in plumbing and construction. “There are not many temporary work permits, or a pathway for people to come to the United States to work and to start businesses,” he says. “We need to have more ways so people who are hardworking and ambitious can come here.”
Breton is a risk-taker, and he loves a challenge. Right now, he just finished working on a job that might have seemed impossible to other contractors: remodeling a total of 18 hotel rooms in a Fort Myers building in only six days. “Nobody thought that we could make it happen,” Breton says. “But now, I’m driving up to Tampa because we got it done today.” That diligence has paid off. Just this year, after four consecutive annual nominations, Optimum Plumbing was chosen as Hispanic Business Entity of the Year by the Hispanic Business Imitative Fund of Florida. Breton was also named its 2014 Person of the Year. He says: “Believe in yourself, follow your dreams, and just put your heart in everything that you do.”