Kentucky Home -- Francisco Montes, plastics team leader at TMMK, has come a long way -- both literally and figuratively -- from Havana, Cuba.
Dreams really do come true.
For Francisco Montes, plastics team leader at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK), that’s not just soaring rhetoric. It’s the actual path his life has taken since he came to this country 10 years ago.
Montes was born in Havana, Cuba. As an adult, he earned a computer technician degree — only to find it had little use in his homeland. But there was
a need for such skills in the U.S. That’s when the then 35-year-old and his wife, Annia, decided a better future awaited them there.
“There was no work in Cuba, and very little opportunity for me,” says Montes. “We had no support, and although we knew just a handful of people, we applied for work visas and packed up.”
They arrived in Miami in 2008. Guided by a friend’s reference, they continued on to Kentucky.
Then came a major breakthrough: Montes applied for and secured a spot in TMMK’s diversity recruitment program — in spite of his limited English skills. To try to close this gap, Montes watched television by day with the subtitles on. Then, during his night shift at TMMK, he continued learning.
“I only knew a handful of basic commands in English,” says Montes. “Toyota was like a school for me from the very beginning. Every day, I was learning. I would just soak up what was going on around me. Everyone was so helpful.”
He credits the family atmosphere at TMMK and his supportive group with helping him find his way.
“I can never thank my teammates and this company enough,” he says. “Toyota has given me a new life, one I could never have even dreamed of.”
Three years later, Montes was hired on full time. Then in 2014, he became a team leader in Lexus Plastics.
“It was amazing the life lessons I learned every day at work,” he says. “I was from another country, but I was never treated differently. I’ve always felt embraced here.”
Extended Family -- Montes came to America with his wife Annia and their daughter Alessandra. His mother, father, sister and her family have since joined them.
Montes also credits Toyota with helping him share his good fortune with his extended family, who had remained in Cuba. Eventually, he was able to save up enough money to bring his mother, father, sister and her family to join Annia, him and their 8-year-old daughter, Alessandra, in Lexington.
Then in 2016, Francisco and Annia were declared American citizens.
“That was an amazing day,” says Montes. “You don’t realize how lucky you are until you know hard times. I no longer have to wonder where our next meal is coming from or how to pay for a good education for my daughter. Because of Toyota, I can sleep easier at night, and for that, I will be forever grateful.”
By Kerry Holt