In the mid-1990s, Carlos Rodriguez found himself back in his native Mexico. He had an industrial engineering degree in hand, but with an economy in tatters, he found no real jobs in his field.
“I had no job, no car, no nothing, but a lot of enthusiasm to start a new adventure,” he recalled.
Rodriguez had just returned from Canada. Here he took intensive English classes in Vancouver to bolster his professional possibilities. He had to cut those studies short due to a major peso devaluation. It drastically undercut his ability to pay his tuition for the English-language courses.
Rodriguez found himself back in Leon, the shoe-making capital of Mexico. Here, he would return to the footwear industry he grew up in. His father was a businessman who owned and operated a shoe factory near Mexico City. The best job he could find in the mid-1990s was as a line foreman at a Leon shoe factory.
As it turned out, it was the start of not only his return to an industry he knew well as a youth but his eventual climb to where he is today. He is now in a second-floor office overseeing more than 100 employees making boots in Mercedes. He also manages the overall operations of Rios of Mercedes and its factories in South Texas and Mexico. Rodriguez is the chief operating officer of the company as well as being made a shareholder in 2017.
The time from having “no job, no nothing” nearly 25 years ago to where he is today is a testament to Rodriguez’s pursuit of opportunity and adventure. He would go on to manage a large boot factory in Leon before starting his own company in 2005 from scratch. Here, he would eventually see it put out 400 pairs of boots a day. Rodriguez values the lessons from that factory floor in 1995 and how it applies to his leadership role today.
“I was able to hear the stories and feel the joys and pain of the people working on the tables (of Leon factory),” he said.
Rodriguez would join Rios of Mercedes in 2011 after years of making boots for the Mercedes-based company. He can climb down the stairs leading to his office and quickly banter with and connect with his employees. Here, at the manufacturing facility right by Expressway 83, they are manufacturing Rios, Anderson Bean and Olathe boots .
He’s part of the second generation of leadership that’s building on the legacy and foundation set by Rios’ longtime owners and partners Trainor Evans and Pat Moody.
Ryan Vaughan, the chief executive officer for Rios of Mercedes, lauds the work Rodriguez has done in building up the middle management component of his growing company.
“The future of this company really hinges on Carlos’ ability to produce,” Vaughan said. “He’s got a team in Mexico that’s doing phenomenal production, and he’s building this production team here.”