Washington man transforms from migrant worker to business owner

There’s been much discussion lately on both sides of immigration reform about how well foreign-born individuals can fare in and contribute to the U.S. economy. A story published by the Tri-City Herald tells the case of Richland, Washington, resident Joe Gonzalez, which proves immigrants can do good in America’s economic climate.

After Gonzalez’s family immigrated to the U.S. from the village of Allende, located in Coahuila, Mexico. His father had a green card; however, he, his mother and his siblings did not. With little money and unable to speak English, the family worked as crop pickers, moving from Arizona to Idaho to Washington, for work.

But things started looking up for him once his family settled in the small Washington town of Mabton. Gonzalez graduated from high school and went to join the Air Force Academy, an unsuccessful endeavor that ended with him dropping out and returning to his hometown, where he married Delia, his wife of our decades.

Despite the disappointment that came with dropping out, Gonzalez went on to start his own business – American Electric. It started nearly two decades ago as a tiny operation with only three workers, and it has since grown to employ nearly 100 people. But the road to owning his own business was not an easy one. He trained to become an electrician, working as an apprentice and then a journeyman for more than a decade before becoming part owner of JRT Electric in 1995.

From that point on, Gonzalez knew what he wanted to do for a living and wanted to become a valuable part of his community. As Gonzalez explained to the Tri-City Herald, he was inspired by his love for the U.S. and the opportunities it opened up to him, and he wanted to name his company Patriot Electric for this reason (though it was already taken).

“Only in America would somebody get a chance to do what I’ve done,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez certainly does not take the opportunities he has been afforded for granted, and he gives back to the Lower Valley and Tri-City community by, among other ways, providing needy families with warm meals during the holidays.