The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce celebrated the 2022 Legislative Summit where America’s Hispanic business leaders met with elected officials in a bipartisan effort to influence change.

By: Sarah Berjan

As the nation rebuilds from the crippling economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) held a legislative summit for Hispanic businesses to meet with elected officials and develop ideas that will bolster the nation’s economy. 

Hispanic businesses, leaders, and elected officials hailing from all corners of the nation convened in Washington, D.C., to discuss reestablishing economic vibrancy through public policy, procurement, advocacy, and access to necessary technical assistance. The conference broke records as more than 600 business leaders registered.  

The USHCC awarded the Advocacy Champion Award to the Secretary of the U.S Department of Interior, Deb Haaland, for making history in the Hispanic Business community and as the first Native American to serve as cabinet secretary. 

Secretary Haaland ran her own small business producing and canning Pueblo Salsa, served as a tribal administrator at San Felipe Pueblo, NM, and became the first woman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, overseeing business operations of the second largest tribal gaming enterprise in New Mexico. She successfully advocated for the Laguna Development Corporation to create policies and commitments to environmental business practices.

She is one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress, where she focused on environmental justice, climate change, missing and murdered indigenous women, and family-friendly policies.    

“Out of adversity, you create opportunities, and out of hardship, you come out with industrious solutions. The Hispanic chambers help those businesses, ideas, and opportunities get off the ground and flourish,” Haaland said.  

According to the USHCC, Hispanic-owned businesses contribute over $800 billion to every year’s American economy. The Biden Administration has drafted policies to advance small-minority-owned businesses and support the Hispanic community, accounting for 63.5 million Hispanic Americans nationwide. 
However, crafting and passage of these policies will require unity, participation, and strategic bipartisan collaboration, according to USHCC President and CEO Ramiro A. Cavazos. 

“When Hispanic businesses succeed, jobs are created, and the economy grows stronger. We have better goods and services. There’s more efficiency, more competition, and we’re more competitive globally. After all, we think globally because many of us speak more than one language and have that perspective, not an insular one,” Cavazos said. “As a nation, we must continue to expand capital, education, and procurement opportunities to unleash the true potential.” 

The U.S Labor Department reported 678,000 additional jobs to the U.S. Economy as of February, adding to the record 6.4 million jobs in 2021. 

According to a study by Stanford University, Hispanic-owned businesses remain the fastest-growing segment within the American economy, with 50 percent of all businesses created between 2007 and 2017 being Latino.  

Today 4.7 million Hispanic-owned businesses employ about 1.2 million, infusing nearly $50 billion into the U.S. economy, according to Miguel Estién, National Acting Director of the Minority Business Development Agency. 

“These figures fill me with pride because, as a former entrepreneur, I know these figures carry a storm beyond economics. Our grandparents came to this country, leaving everything behind to give us freedom, education, and prosperity. While entrepreneurs are bringing prosperity to America, I can still hear grandpa saying some of the work is not yet done,” Estién said. “The work is not done because even though this community has proven its worth by adding $150 billion to the U.S. economy, economic parity is not a reality. If we were to close any gap between Latino-owned and white-owned  businesses, Latino entrepreneurs would co-generate 1.4 trillion in additional revenue.”

According to Cavazos, the nation currently holds a $2.8 trillion Latino gross domestic product and economy. 

“Our vision as a leading voice in advancing Americans, Hispanic business is to drive our economy upward and forward,” Cavazos said. “There are 260 Hispanic Chambers from around the country. Each of them is an oasis in their communities. Each of them was an emergency room for small businesses.” 

With the passage of the Biden Administration’s $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework last year, the Minority Business Development Act was enacted and replaced the core authority of its agency from a 50-year-old executive order. The Minority Business Development Agency will invest in and support businesses accessing capital and government procurement. 

According to Alice Rodriguez, Executive Vice President at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Chair of the USHCC, Hispanic-owned businesses may increase potential through equitable capital, capacity building, and connections. JPMorgan Chase announced in August 2020 a $30 billion commitment to advance racial equity, with $2 billion set aside for Latino or Black-owned businesses. 

“Latinos have the highest level of labor participation, and we can go on about our potential, but there are a lot of things that we need to stay focused on,” Rodriguez said. “Although we have a lot of good things going for us, we have got to peel back that onion and focus on those things that will help us raise wealth potential for the community.”