Celebrating Latino Leaders: Pedro Soto
“I love being responsible for making something."
Chief Operating Officer, Space-Craft Manufacturing Inc.
Chairman of the New Haven Economic Development Corporation
First Vice President New Haven Preservation Trust
Director ACM Aerospace Components Manufacturers, Inc.
Hometown: Orange, CT
As the head of the daily operations of a New Haven manufacturer of jet engine components, Pedro Soto is on top of the latest aerospace technology. He also has a deep interest in preserving the past.
At the Helm
When Soto took over operations at Space-Craft, the company founded by his father, it was primarily a supplier of replacement parts to the military. In order to win orders for the next generation of jet engines, the company had to take risks, invest in new technology, and adapt its processes. They are now part of a resurgent American manufacturing sector.
“If you were to buy a 737 today, you couldn’t get it for 8 years. The backlogs on these aircraft are record breaking. These new planes have incredibly more efficient engines, so they pay for themselves quickly. It’s been good for Space-Craft. We have at least one part in every single next-generation engine from Pratt and Whitney and GE. For a forty-four person company, that is a neat thing to say.”
Working at his father’s company was never the original plan for the younger Soto. A graduate of Hopkins School and Amherst College, where he majored in political science, Pedro had an interest in computers. His first jobs were with a dot-com start-up and later as a systems administrator for Yale Information Technology Services.
“In 2006 my dad had some health problems and I was looking for a career change. He asked me to come help. He said, ‘You’re a smart guy, you can figure it out.’ I ended up really loving it. I love being responsible for making something. I love the fact that we are making a product, that it comes in as a big piece of metal, and it goes out as a part, a tangible product.”
Emerging as a Leader
Soto’s father, John Soto, started his career as an 18-year old who talked his way into a job at a machine shop. After mastering his trade as a machine operator, he worked his way into management, and eventually founded Space-Craft Inc. in 1970. Pedro sees his father as a mentor, though they have different approaches to leadership.
“We’re pretty different people. He’s eminently talented, but hands on. I’m more cerebral. I tend to look at systems and processes. He’s more like, ‘I know how to do this, watch me.’ We end up with the same result. For me, I have to attack a problem from a broader view and get consensus.”
Because of his position as a business leader, Pedro has been asked to sit on volunteer boards throughout the city. As the president of the New Haven Preservation Trust, he helped the organization climb out of a deficit with a successful campaign during its 50th anniversary celebration.
“I love old buildings. In another time and place I would have been a historian. I think you have to celebrate the history and remind people that one of the reasons New Haven is New Haven is because of its history and its architecture.”
Looking to a future Latino majority
Growing up, Soto had to contend with the biases of peers who had never known any prosperous Latinos.
“There was always this sense of, ‘How did you get to live in that house there?’”
For Soto, a sign of progress will be when the success of Latinos is no longer questioned. But he also wonders what will happen when Latinos are no longer a minority group.
“Where are the divisions going to be? Are we going to get over the questioning of everyone who doesn’t have the common American background? Or are we going to do what people did to the Irish. What’s going to happen? At some point, we might become just as intolerant. I have hope that won’t be the case.”