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Manuel Mejía aims for the top

BY JOANNE C. CURCIO of Caribbean Business

June 17, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

When it comes to ambition, the sky’s the limit for Manuel Mejía, vice president of Morgan Stanley, who says there are at least two more things he hopes to accomplish in life: to serve as president of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce (PRCC) and to someday travel into space.

Those who know him well probably would say both goals are realistic for the seasoned businessman who has a history of both setting high standards and making significant achievements.

The San Juan native’s curiosity about the business world began as a youngster, when he watched his father build a career as a real-estate entrepreneur. His interest grew with his first jobs, one in the Tennis Pro Shop of the Caribe Hilton hotel and the other as a door-to-door water-heater salesman.

Mejía says it was through his early job experiences that he realized he enjoyed meeting customers’ needs, had a natural talent for it, and desired a career in business. His drive, determination, and leadership qualities became evident as a teenager when he battled and overcame a serious medical condition and moved on to achieve his dream of studying international business. While earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, Mejía was president of the International Students Association and of his fraternity, Delta Epsilon.

Over the years, Mejía has amassed experiences in various business and commercial fields. He worked for the Government Development Bank before moving to Citibank, where he developed its Management Training Group and was later appointed manager of its Commercial Loans division. He worked for East West Investment in New York, later for Goya de Puerto Rico, and then joined Morgan Stanley, at the time called Dean Witter. Aside from his position with the firm as officer, financial adviser, and retirement plan specialist, Mejía also is an entrepreneur and president of Mejía-Bird Enterprises, an active partner in Vin Santo Café in the Holiday Inn in Isla Verde.

Mejía says he holds strong to the belief that "what you do in life echoes for eternity" and says his philosophy for success in business is having a vision, organizing the idea, then pouring enthusiasm into it to make it happen. "The worst things a businessperson can do is lose his or her enthusiasm and be unable to adapt to change," Mejía said. "They could have the best business plan, but it would still fall short."

For as long as he can remember, the Morgan Stanley executive says he has been ambitious; and it has been part of his nature to strive to be a good citizen, a good neighbor, a good family man, and willing to help others. He says it is a part of his character to want to serve his community. That also is what is behind his desire to head the local Chamber of Commerce. "I want to serve Puerto Rico and help create a better environment for future generations. I truly believe the Chamber [of Commerce] is one of the vehicles through which I could focus my energy and ultimately improve the island’s socioeconomic future," he explained.

The aspiring candidate for PRCC president says the island is facing several obstacles to progress, the most harmful being what he describes as an obsolete government structure. "We have lost our trust in our political leaders and their intentions because of their clouded vision, which stands in the way of a cohesive sense of direction," Mejía said. "Their [the political leaders’] lack of action is what motivates me to lead the Chamber [of Commerce] and help build a bridge to prosperity."

Mejía says one step in the right direction is staging a "Rally for the Economy," through which various associations could band together to demand solutions to the island’s woes. "It is one way we could force politicians into action," he said. "A coordinated integration of the business and civic communities would prod the executive and legislative branches to come to their senses and put the strategies and structures into action that would yield a competitive, well-balanced socioeconomic environment."

Mejía is no stranger to lending a hand to his community in the name of positive change. He has been especially active within the PRCC and served on its board of directors for seven years, as first and third vice president, as well as other positions. He also was a state board director for the School to Work program, has been a volunteer with the nonprofit social services organizations Centros Sor Isolina Ferré and the United Fund of Puerto Rico, and is a member of the Rotary Club of San Juan. Mejía soon will begin working on a fundraising project for SER de Puerto Rico.

When he isn’t involved in his work or community activities, Mejía spends time with his family, his wife, Mirena Bird, and their four-year-old son, Manuel Enrique. Despite his busy schedule as a business leader and family man, Mejía says he manages to squeeze in some tennis or golf.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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