Meet Mike Suco, Coca-Cola United CEO and co-founder of Fiesta Birmingham

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Mike Suco is aware of about stamina.

The CEO of Birmingham-based Coca-Cola Bottling Firm United (CCBCU) is an endurance-sport fanatic whose favorites are actions like long-distance operating and triathlon. He has participated in about 10 or 11 marathons, together with the Boston Marathon, in addition to a few full Ironman races, thought-about to be a few of the most difficult triathlons on this planet.

Suco can also be identified for one thing else with endurance: Fiesta BHAM, Alabama’s largest celebration of Hispanic tradition and heritage, which holds its twentieth annual celebration at Linn Park on Saturday, Sept. 24. This 12 months’s theme is ¡Somos Familia! (Feels Like Household!), and Alabama Energy is among the many many supporters of the occasion.

As certainly one of Fiesta’s founders, Suco, together with different members of the Hispanic Enterprise Council (HBC) of the previous Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce, determined to place collectively an annual pageant celebrating the variety of tradition in Hispanic nations. That was in 2001.

“It’s actually thrilling to see that it has not solely survived, however it has thrived,” Suco mentioned. “It has actually grown and become one thing even greater than I believe any of us might have imagined.”

He and different HBC members began the pageant due to their delight of their particular person cultures and since many non-Hispanic People aren’t conscious of the variations amongst Hispanic nations’ cultures, he mentioned.

Mike Suco, CEO of Birmingham-based Coca-Cola Bottling Firm United (CCBCU), is certainly one of Fiesta’s founders who determined to place collectively an annual pageant celebrating the variety of tradition in Hispanic nations. (Amarr Croskey / The Birmingham Instances)

“Folks would hear (my household) communicate Spanish, and so they assumed that we have been from Mexico,” mentioned Suco, who’s Cuban-American. “It’s no totally different than we communicate English right here, and so they communicate English in Britain. They’re totally different cultures, proper?”

Witnessing the huge variety “of tradition around the globe is useful in selling acceptance,” Suco mentioned.

“Wherever you grew up or no matter your background is, there’s an entire world on the market of folks that have totally different beliefs, have totally different views, have totally different meals, cultures, religions — all of these issues,” he mentioned. Fiesta “opens the door for us to be simply extra accepting of one another and to just accept variations as a optimistic factor.”

‘An incredible workforce’

Suco was the senior vp and chief industrial officer at CCBCU when he was named earlier this 12 months to succeed the corporate’s CEO, John Sherman, who retired on the finish of July however stays on the corporate’s board of administrators. Suco, who has spent greater than 26 years with Coca-Cola, is the eighth president and CEO to guide CCBCU in its 120 years of operations.

“We’ve got a tremendous workforce, and I imagine intensely in our tradition of shared management and our native working mannequin,” Suco mentioned. “We’ve got many alternatives in entrance of us for progress and success, and I look ahead to carrying on the legacy of service to our associates, prospects and communities that has been the muse of Coca-Cola United for 120 years.”

CCBCU is the second-largest privately held Coca-Cola bottling firm in North America and the third-largest Coca-Cola bottler in the US.

Suco was born and raised in Jacksonville, Alabama. He’s the son of José and Teresa, who along with Teresa’s dad and mom and Suco’s eldest brother, Joseph, immigrated from Cuba in 1962, fleeing persecution throughout Fidel Castro’s management of the island nation.

“I’m one technology away from a household who misplaced all the pieces,” Suco mentioned. “In the event you don’t imagine the US is the best nation that permits the best of alternative, then I don’t know learn how to persuade you another manner.”

However Jacksonville wasn’t their first cease.

After Suco’s father and grandfather, Manuel, have been jailed for voicing their discontent with the then-government of Cuba, Suco’s dad and mom fled to Miami with Joseph, then 13 days outdated, in addition to Teresa’s dad and mom.

“They every had one bag of their palms. That’s all of the Cuban authorities would allow you to depart with. They left all their cash, their houses, jewellery, all the pieces, and went to Miami,” Suco mentioned.

About 250,000 Cuban individuals emigrated to the US in what is named the “Golden Exile,” which spans from the Cuban Revolution of 1959 to October 1962.

A lot of these emigrants discovered themselves in Miami, however the Sucos discovered their option to Central Alabama as a result of Manuel, previously a professor in Havana, Cuba, had a buddy who was already working at Miles Faculty in Fairfield.

That buddy had taken to Birmingham as a result of it reminded him of Cuba.

“Cuba is mountainous. There are a number of stunning mountains in Cuba, so (the buddy) simply cherished Birmingham,” Suco mentioned. “My grandfather drove up right here and fell in love with Miles Faculty, and he began educating at Miles in 1963.”

Manuel persuaded José and Teresa to maneuver near Birmingham from Miami. Teresa studied on the College of Montevallo and earned her doctorate on the College of Alabama earlier than she began educating at Jacksonville State College, the place she labored for 43 years.

José spent 30 years working for Large B Medicine, the place he was each a retailer supervisor and district supervisor.

Rising up in Jacksonville, Suco lived along with his dad and mom and his two brothers: Manuel, named after his grandfather, and Joseph, named after his father. Suco didn’t really feel that he grew up otherwise than different kids in Jacksonville on the time, besides that whenever you entered the Suco residence, all people immediately spoke Spanish.

“It was like flicking a swap,” Suco mentioned. “My buddies would come over, stroll by means of the door and be like, ‘What simply occurred?’ … It was a humorous factor. I had two older brothers, so lots of people knew about our household. … It was nice.”

Constructing his personal life

Suco went by means of all three of the Jacksonville colleges — Jacksonville Elementary, Jacksonville Excessive and Jacksonville State College (JSU), the place he graduated in 1990 with a bachelor’s diploma in enterprise administration.

It was at JSU that Suco first met his future spouse, Shelley Arnold, however it wasn’t till years after commencement that the pair would date and later marry.

After leaving the college, Suco started working in 1991 as a frontline salesperson at Ernest and Julio Gallo Vineyard in Fort Myers, Florida, the place he labored his manner up the company chain. Throughout his time with the corporate, Suco would return to Jacksonville yearly for JSU’s homecoming. Whereas he was working as an space supervisor for the vineyard in Miami, Suco and Arnold dated briefly till the connection fizzled.

Their relationship ultimately rekindled when Suco acquired a telephone name from his mom, then nonetheless a professor at JSU, about somebody he had dated prior to now.

“My mother calls me and tells me there’s a lady in her class who says I used thus far her sister. I mentioned, ‘Properly, who was it?’ She informed me it was Shelley’s sister. (I mentioned to my mom), ‘Properly, discover out if Shelley’s married.’ … So, Mom’s operating intermediary. She comes again and tells me, ‘She’s not married.’ I mentioned, ‘Get her telephone quantity,’” Suco recalled.

At the moment, Suco was already interviewing for a place at Coca-Cola in Atlanta that might have him working in Birmingham. Suco and Arnold began relationship long-distance earlier than he started working for Coke in 1996. They married in 1998.

They’ve two kids: 16-year-old Michael, who attends Briarwood Christian Faculty in Shelby County, and 19-year-old Bella, who’s finding out at Auburn College.

The CEO started his profession with the Coca-Cola System in 1996 as a market growth supervisor for The Coca-Cola Firm. In 2000, Suco joined CCBCU, a privately owned bottler for Coca-Cola primarily based in Birmingham. Over greater than 20 years with the corporate, Suco held quite a few administration and govt positions.

Man of sport

That climb was pure for a person of endurance who has all the time maintained bodily health by means of operating. When he moved to the Mt Laurel group in Shelby County, he acquired into the more-intense aspect of endurance sports activities. Residents of the group appreciated to run marathons, and he requested himself, “Why would you run, and no person’s chasing you, for 26 miles?

“I ran a half marathon, and I did pretty properly at it. I used to be fairly quick, so I had set a objective: ‘I’m gonna do one marathon, and I’ll simply test it off my listing’ — then I acquired the bug,” mentioned Suco, who has since run in practically a dozen full marathons.

Past the expertise of operating, Suco was impressed by the various tales of different individuals taking part in high-intensity endurance occasions, notably the tales of disabled individuals who have accomplished them. Suco himself misplaced imaginative and prescient in his left eye at age 7 and has had a prosthetic since his 30s.

Whereas he was recovering from the accident that brought about an an infection in his eye, Suco recalled his mom by no means wanting him to make use of his eye “as an excuse.”

“Once I was within the hospital, she would present me photos of well-known folks that had a patch on their eye or that had a glass eye again then: Sammy Davis Jr., Sandy Duncan, all these artists and likewise some very well-known generals. … I bear in mind she would present me the photographs and say, ‘They’re OK.’ That was her manner of constructing positive I didn’t enable that to outline me going ahead,” Suco mentioned.

Tickets to Fiesta BHAM 2022 are $12 on-line and $15 on the gate; admission is free for kids 12 and youthful. Occasion attendees are urged to purchase tickets earlier than the occasion at Donations to the Fiesta BHAM Scholarship Fund are inspired on the occasion.

This story initially was printed by The Birmingham Instances.

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