He's the hard-charging CEO of an international manufacturer. He also one of the biggest philanthropists around. Native son FRANK MONTEIRO talks... well, frankly... about why he's bringing the hub of his North American supply chain to Waterbury, and why every day is a battle (including on his body).
His father, his grandfather, Ronald Reagan and Ulysses S. Grant. They are four people who Frank Monteiro notes as his heroes. The first two make sense, given his close family ties. The next two also stand to reason, as Monteiro is a U.S. history buff.
But it’s a fifth hero – General Omar Bradley – who really illuminates the man that Monteiro is.
“What I love about Omar Bradley, the G.I. general, is A, he never forgot where he came from, and B, he saw the field for what it can be, not for what it was. And, he wasn’t going to just sit in the command post. He was going to be there in the trenches with you.”
General Omar Bradley.
Frank Monteiro is Chief Executive Officer of Drew Marine, a global supplier of technical products and services for the large vessel maritime industry. He took the helm of the century-old company in 2019, and has been pushing it forward at an unprecedented pace.
In his first 12 months as the top executive, Frank has led Drew Marine in acquiring another chemical company in Greece, expanding services across the 900 water ports it supports worldwide, reworking the multi-departmental structure of the company, and adjusting its supply chain strategies for better control over the research & development, positioning and distribution of its products.
The last move has resulted in a major win for Waterbury – as Monteiro is creating a 100,000 square foot Global Innovation and Manufacturing Center on Captain Neville Drive. Set to open in 2021, it will become the hub of the company’s North American supply chain – and bring over 50 jobs to the City, from scientists to technicians.
Frank also leads the parent company of Drew Marine – Drew International – which has created its new corporate headquarters in the Waterbury region. Both Drew International and Drew Marine are backed by private equity firm Court Square Capital Partners, which manages a portfolio in excess of $3 billion.
Monteiro gives a tour of the upcoming Global Innovation Center, 2020.
What Monteiro accomplishes in a day is dizzying – like a general leading, pushing and willing his team forward.
Monteiro in the proverbial trenches.
“I go a hundred thousand miles an hour with my head on fire,” Frank says with a slight chuckle. “I don’t know anything else. It’s how I’m built.”
It helps that Frank only sleeps about three to four hours a night, and has since he was a kid. It also helps that he’s got a wealth of big ideas, he doesn’t mix words, and he delivers said words with clear direction and military-like precision – whether you want to hear them or not.
His successes are all the more startling, considering the news he heard years ago that could have changed everything.
It’s a warm day outside the Drew Marine headquarters. Even if it wasn’t, the air conditioning would be going inside Frank's office. “I hate the heat… it just wears you down,” Monteiro deadpans, and for good reason.
“April 2007,” Frank says, pointing to his left side. “I had thought I pinched a nerve in this shoulder, because this whole hand and arm were tingling. As the week went on, it got worse. Long story short, I had one hell of a visit to the ER. I was using very colorful metaphors and phrases with the doctor, as they were trying to explain to me that I had one of two things.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a pinched nerve. It was Multiple Sclerosis.
Monteiro and wife, Sandra, circa 2007.
Monteiro (right) with United Way campaign co-chair Mike Goralski, 2017.
Nonetheless, Frank refuses to let the MS slow him down. When you want to be the leader above the din, and the trench digger below, there’s no time for pity. “I say I have MS, the MS doesn’t have me.”
A man of great conviction and pride, Monteiro has not only poured himself into business, but also into philanthropy – giving his time, talent and treasure to countless national, state and Waterbury-area organizations.
He co-chaired the most successful giving campaign in United Way of Greater Waterbury history. He was pivotal in the Mandell Center for Multiple Sclerosis being built at Saint Mary’s Hospital. He started a group for local business leaders – called Spectre – who secretly contribute thousands to people in need. And on and on and on.
Monteiro is, quite possibly, the largest private contributor to the Waterbury region. Of course, much like his nickname Keyser Söze – the elusive character in the 1995 film Usual Suspects – no one knew this for years. It was only at the insistence of Mattatuck Museum Director, Bob Burns, that Monteiro relented to making his generosity known.
While he says it’s not a command post, Monteiro’s main office is certainly set up like one – with flourishes that reinforce how he only does things at the largest scale.
Every conceivable space has sports and entertainment memorabilia to rival any collector’s. There’s 16 coffee mugs under the large-screen TV scrolling stocks. There’s hundreds of cigars. There’s a bourbon display that would make even the most serious spirit connoisseur blush. There’s boxes of swag and merchandise that will be given to colleagues and community partners as tokens of appreciation. And, there’s the expansive wine cabinet for friends and guests. (Monteiro also has cellars in his home, at The Country Club of Waterbury, and at Waterbury restaurant D’Amelio’s.)
When asked to explain some of the items in his office, Frank says, 'Everything here has a story, my friend.'
Monteiro’s story has, in many respects, centered around Waterbury. Born and raised in the Brass City, he learned about hard work, dedication and loyalty here.
He’s grateful to the people of Waterbury, and to his family, for showing him the value of character and sacrifice. His Mom was a hard-working X-ray technician. His Dad still runs a popular barber shop in the City. His Grandfather worked at Scovill’s for five decades, and both Great-Grandfathers also busted their humps in the Brass City factories.
As he reminisces about the life lessons he learned in Waterbury, it’s hard not to see Monteiro as a bit of an old soul (especially when he mentions his love for Moxie, the soft drink created in the late 1800’s that’s known mostly for its bitter aftertaste).
“I kind of joke about it: Am I a sentimental guy? Yeah, in a lot of things, but not in business. I'm not going to put our [business] entity at risk,” Frank says about the Drew Marine move to Waterbury. “It was all upside with us going here.”
This is the perfect spot to bring your company, because you have the base of skilled workers that have been here. But on top of that, there's a lot of investment that's been made here in Waterbury, by private individuals that are putting their money where their mouth is.
Drew Marine isn’t the only global manufacturer that Monteiro has grown by using the business-friendly location of Waterbury. Frank spent the better part of two decades with MacDermid, an international specialty chemical company that he helped take private, then public, while building it into a $4 billion giant through acquisitions and organic growth.
The swag and merchandise that Monteiro handed out at that time had the rallying cry, “Success + Sustainability,” plastered all over it. It’s part of his business philosophy that, despite the possible perception, is not centered around micro-management, but around three simple rules:
“Number one is, no surprises. Number two: Don’t lie to me. And number three: Don’t lie to yourself.”
While we’re on the topic of telling the truth, Monteiro delivers another salvo to prospective businesses who may want to come to the Waterbury region:
“Don't just come here for tax breaks. Come here because you want to come somewhere nice where you can provide something for your greatest assets – your workers – give them a good quality of life.”
“You can have inner city living, you can have suburb living. You have two municipal golf courses. You have a country club. You have high-end restaurants. You have entertainment. You have a museum downtown. And, you have a government that wants to invest in business.”
The final question of the day – “What’s your pitch for Waterbury?” – yields a quintessential response from the former college catcher, the position often referred to in baseball as the “Field General.”
“Come spend the day with me,” says Monteiro, “because for me to just talk about it, doesn't give it justice. You have to see it firsthand.”
“Let me take you around. Let me show you where I grew up. Let me show you through my eyes, what I've seen, and what I see happening. Have a slice of pizza with me, have a hot dog with me, have a steak with me.”
(Get ready, if you want to have a filet with him: He’s a record-holding steak eater at a restaurant in Greece, and several others around the globe. His Greek record? Seventy-two ounces of meat, in seventeen minutes. Plus fries. And all doused in ketchup.)
As the interview comes to a close, Monteiro checks cell phone number one. And cell phone number two. And welcomes a colleague in to discuss some plans. Then another. Six, in fact, over a ten minute span.
For each, they happily receive their orders – with clear direction and military-like precision – knowing their general is so much more than that, because he’s also in the trenches with them.