Without Native entrepreneurs to source opportunity, a sustainable Native economy is nothing more than a concept or idea. Native-owned private businesses help to create functioning economies and essential jobs in Indian Country. The Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs list serves to uplift Native business founders and leaders who are demonstrating innovation, professionalism and self-determination. Native Business is rolling out profiles of these 50 Native entrepreneurs online, in no particular hierarchy. The inaugural class of the Native Business Top 50 Entrepreneurs recognizes leaders across 13 business sectors, demonstrating the diversity of industries where Natives are making an impact. Among the entrepreneurs recognized in the Manufacturing & Constructing sector is Carlos Muñoz, founder of PIMMEX Contracting and Native Energy Solutions.
Last December, Santa Claus and his special guest visited a residential home for youth in the Gila River Indian Community. Each youth received a brand-new pair of Nike shoes, thanks to Santa’s friend Carlos Muñoz.
The giveaway is a tradition for Muñoz (Pima/Mexican), the founder and president of PIMMEX Contracting Corporation. “I was raised to give without expecting anything in return,” says Muñoz, the son of a roofer who learned his trade at his father’s hands.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in business management, Muñoz, a citizen of the Gila River Indian Community, continued working alongside his dad. “I started a whole new division within my dad’s company,” he says. Then, the younger Muñoz won a roofing contract, and hasn’t looked back since. “My dad put in start-up funds” to start his own firm in 2008, he says. “I would do almost all the work,” Muñoz says. “I worked 12 to 14-hour days for the first three or four years!”
That hard work has paid off. The tiny construction firm that once could only qualify for a $100,000 construction bond now takes on jobs requiring a bond of up to $35 million. PIMMEX holds licenses with GRIC, the Navajo Nation and the state of Arizona. Muñoz manages a staff of 25, of which more than half are Native. “We have a pretty diverse staff,” he says, “including Native, Hispanic and African Americans.”
PIMMEX is a full-service firm, offering both general contracting and design-build services. The firm’s website notes than a dozen completed projects, including single-family and multi-unit housing, commercial and government services builds. The firm also works throughout the Southwest, and thanks to Muñoz ’s foresight in securing a state contractor’s license, his projects span both on- and off-reservation builds. “Relationships have come out of our work,” says Muñoz, who grew up in Gila River’s District 5, where he’s sited PIMMEX’s headquarters. His latest upcoming project: a remodel of the Apache Gold Casino and Hotel for the San Carlos Apache Tribe, located about 100 miles east of Phoenix.
And then, there’s Muñoz’s most recent venture: solar-powered street lighting. Native Energy Solutions has closed the deal on more than 800 solar street lights to the Navajo Nation alone and has delivered about 300 to his own Gila River Indian Community.
Muñoz’s success also has given him the opportunity to follow his family’s teachings to give back. In addition to the shoe giveaway, Muñoz has worked with all the Boys and Girls Clubs in the Gila River Community to deliver school supplies, and PIMMEX sponsors causes and events in the area. And, he’s proud to say he’s paid his dad’s investment back two years ago. He told the Gila River Indian News last year that he would like to do a jacket drive for kids, so he can increase the number of gifts he gives. “Being able to help my community has been my biggest success,” he says.
“My eventual goal is to start a foundation that will create a structural approach and a process to give back,” says Muñoz. “I’d like to run a foundation full-time.” Fortunately, Muñoz has also learned a valuable lesson along the way to enable him to spend more time as a philanthropist: “I’ve learned to pass responsibilities to my employees,” he says. “I know now that you have to utilize all your resources; never think you have to do everything.”