Saint-Martin Success Story

Hydraulics is a promising sector for hard workers. Evidenced by this Saint-Martin success story.


"When I was small, I decided I'd make something out of my life" recalls Francis Luis Frias. At 29 years old, this young man is now a hydraulic equipment mechanic and repairman, and sole trader since January 2015. Similarly to mechanics, hydraulics "replaces all efforts that people can not accomplish" he says. Hydraulic systems are found in power steering, crane cables, air conditioning systems... As the manager of Hydromec, he works on both heavy trucks and boats. He holds a CAP/BEP in auto-mechanics and a Bac Pro in boat mechanics from the Lycée polyvalent, he learned the rest on the job. His knowledge of hydraulics are the fruits of his labor. In Saint-Martin, there are no training on the subject.

Born into a modest family from Santo Domingo looking for a better life, Francis was born in Saint-Martin and raised in French Quarter. He speaks Spanish at home, French at school, English in the street, like many other Saint-Martin locals. «During the three months of summer vacation, I use to forget all my French so I had a hard time in school.» But my mom always pushed me," he said to explain his success.  

Employed between 2006 and 2015, he alternates contracts between two companies located at each end of the island. Although better paid on the Dutch side, he was never trusted by his employer. "I worked more than everyone else, I wanted to obtain diplomas to prove my skills, but he refused to fund my training." So, he learns so all the secrets of hydraulics reading books. "I didn't want to stay mediocre," he says. Unlike its counterpart in Sint Marteen, where each task is distributed, the small business on the French side forced him to develop autonomy and versatility and he was trained by his employer.

After having worked for others, he decided to create his own company. Assisted by a chartered accountant, he drafted an application. He then joined Saint-Martin Initiatives which helped him complete his project. Although it took him nearly three years to make it a reality, Francis has no regrets. As any entrepreneur who starts, he does not count his hours and works at least six days a week. He works on both sides of the island. "What is difficult with boats, he says, is that there is a season". Which means, during high season, everyone calls on him at the same time. He has been trying to recruit employees for several months, but no one answers his ads. There's so little skilled labour that he has still not been replaced in either companies he left, which allowing him to be a subcontractor for the French company. He would also like to train an apprentice, anyone motivated whom would at least have some knowledge of mechanics. Due to the lack of training in hydraulics on the island, Francis bets on transmissions.

Estelle Gasnet