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There are not many Hispanic engineers here in the United States who own industrial plants dedicated exclusively to wastewater treatment. We only know one.

The protagonist of this story offers work to many families. In these times of crisis, like those we are going through right now due to the Coronavirus, Rico has formulated a solution to get ahead and continue contributing to the innovation and talent of those who are willing to receive the support.

Ricardo “Rico” Martinez lives in Indiana but has his business in Illinois and is a member of the IHCC. Our organization is proud to have you as a strategic ally and business partner.

Even with an Engineering degree, he started in this country, washing dishes more than 30 years ago. That gives you a different perspective on business and life.

He insists over and over that “he is not chasing money, but success. If you do things right, money comes later” it is the phrase with which he has summarized his philosophy for years, inspiring other younger entrepreneurs.

Complicated days…

Although this kind of industry offers an essential service (which guarantees work), you are still preparing for a possible crisis in the event of a job shortage due to the cessation of your clients’ operations.

And for that, Rico recommends taking one of the options that each entrepreneur and independent contractor has on the table, and not moving from the plan, always executing it according to their needs.

Rico exposed his plan to his team, in case the situation got complicated since he did not want to let anyone go. And he proposed an hours-reduction plan that ensures that every employee returns home each week with a paycheck.

You must protect the families of those who help you. I am nobody without my employees. I may be the CEO and design the plants, but I need each one of them to operate and maintain them, he explains in a telephone interview from his home.

He says to his employees “my heroes” and greets the general manager every morning with the same enthusiasm as the maintenance manager.

A story in reverse

Your American dream deserves to be told. It is good that new generations of entrepreneurs have references and understand how success is built.

The first big difference with many other “dreamers” is that Ricardo was not born in Mexico, but here in Chicago. As a child, he returned to Monterrey, Mexico, Being his father’s homeland. There is where Rico grew up.

In the “Sultana del Norte,” famous for its industries and for being the heart of Mexico’s economy, it followed the tradition of thousands of young people from that Mexican state who understand the value of studying a professional career.

His degree in Electromechanical Engineering was obtained at the University of Nuevo León, alma mater of great Mexican engineers

Upon graduating, Rico saw that Mexican companies wasted time and human resources to meet their objectives and saw that no business could move forward that way.

Rico was disappointed in Mexico and sought out for bigger dreams, where he found a first temporary job with a relative’s husband in Chicago, Illinois, Rico’s friend had packaged national magazines to mail to subscribers in Illinois at the time. Rico was thrilled to see the American efficiency in production systems.

After graduation, he returned to the United States and quickly became familiar with English as his first language, as it happens to many “regios” who cross the Río Bravo.

Washing dishes

The neighborhood where he came to live in Chicago was very violent, so he decided to try his luck in Rockford, Illinois, in the north of the state, a quieter place, where other relatives lived.

There is where Rico got a job in a fancy Japanese restaurant. He was a dishwasher while managing his electrician license. At that time, he worked 105 hours a week, in three different companies.

In the United States, one does everything alone. Here everyone concentrates on their own, and that guarantees long-term focus and productivity, Rico explains.

It all started that afternoon…

Every success story has an origin, and it must go back to an afternoon in 1993 when “Rico” was working in a car factory.

That afternoon he met Esteban Luviano, who worked in a water treatment plant (until today Rico comments that he is the best untitled chemical engineer he knows) and that he was looking for someone for maintenance. Less than a week later, Rico applied and got the job.

Three months had not passed, and Rico Martínez had already been enthusiastic about everything he had learned within the industry: dirty water came out crystal clear as if by magic, after going through a series of complex chemical processes. Understanding these processes was beginning to become a challenge.

One day he saw an advertisement at the factory requesting a laboratory operator for the shift from 3 am to 11 am. No one wanted to work at that hour. But he introduced himself, and in that laboratory, he began to understand much more of all the processes.

He was so passionate that he did more tests than necessary. So many tests it made that it broke the machines several times. Due to his knowledge of electromechanics, he would fix them immediately.

He studied more and more on the subject and later obtained a license as a Wastewater Treatment Operator that was the first step to undertake.

The next step was to focus on simplifying processes, specializing in redesigning plants that could process more water in less time.

One day there was a fire at the company where he worked, a tragedy had occurred, that led to profound changes in the company. The new owners asked Rico to help them grow and build new plants.

He ceased to be a maintenance operator to move on to effectively design and build new plants for that company, beginning to cement his dream.

In 2015, the business of his life was born: Water Integrated Treatment Systems, LLC.

Rico settled in Dolton, Illinois, and Esteban Luviano, the one who told him about a job opportunity 27 years earlier, became his right arm and mentor to new generations to become professionals in the art of liquid waste processing.

The value of innovation

Today, with his entire career in the industry, Rico is more focused on efficiency than production volumes. He chose a different path than many competitors, and the right results are in sight.

Many of the companies that process oils, petroleum, and other substances use water, and once used, that water is contaminated to such an extent that they cannot discharge it into the drain. Your company collects that dirty water cleans it, and then releases it into the sanitary district.

As President & CEO, Rico Martínez is responsible for running all areas of the business. Under his leadership, Water Integrated Treatment Systems has had rapid growth and profitability.

Rico’s designs are the model for each of the company’s water treatment plants. Behind all this complex process is a man obsessed with details and working methods.

Advantages of being a minority company

The real growth came after becoming a minority company (MBE). Rico did not know about this certification, which has benefited hundreds of thousands of small businesses in the country. IHCC helped him become certified through the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council.

With the help of the IHCC, Rico had achieved the certification as a minority company.

This certification has been the key to our growth. It has opened many doors for me. Thirty percent of my clients came thanks to my minority business status. Today we work with large clients such as ComEd, Econ, People Gas, and many more, says “Rico”.

Inspiring leadership

Rico believes in the social responsibility that each small business has in a community because providing work guarantees opportunities for everyone. One of his happiest times of the year is when Water Integrated Treatment Systems organizes company events and sees the workers together with their families.

This is when he feels proud and appreciates what he is doing, seeing many of the people around him happy. That is your maximum satisfaction as a businessman. 

A model to follow

In addition to be an inspiration to many entrepreneurs, Rico is committed to his community and the organizations within the industry. Rico is a member of the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council Committee and is always working with organizations such as the National Oil Recyclers of America, the American Gas Association and the IHCC.

In these moments of crisis, he says that the IHCC has become more indispensable than ever.

We have always fought as a minority to noticed or seen; It is time to give moral support, financial support during these trying times, during the hardest moments are when friends are made. IHCC is doing that with everything, showing that it is a friend of our entire business community, Martínez tells us.

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