Hector Barreto is Chairman of The Latino Coalition. He agreed to answer a few questions after attending The Aspen Institute Forum on Latino Business Growth, a three-day convening held by the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program.
As a voice for Latino business owners, what is the message that all Americans need to know about this key demographic? How do you leverage your role as Chairman of the Latino Coalition to bring this message to light?
I wish everyone knew this: Latinos are a young, growing, uniquely entrepreneurial and highly productive part of the U.S. economy. The economic output of our population – right around 55 million people – would actually make the world’s seventh-largest economy! I’m most proud of the fact that Latinos are starting small businesses at a faster rate than any other demographic group. At a time when America’s essential business dynamism is declining, Latino’s entrepreneurial spirit and muscle are incredibly important. As Chairman of The Latino Coalition and a former head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, I am privileged to serve as an advocate and voice for Hispanic entrepreneurs – reminding America’s leaders that they must create an environment in which this powerful economic force can thrive.
What’s at stake if we don’t develop solutions for scaling Latino-owned businesses? Why is this topic important for American prosperity?
Small, growing businesses traditionally create two-thirds of our nation’s net new jobs, so we want to make sure Latino-owned businesses aren’t just starting, but growing and thriving. According to a study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, if Latino businesses grew as fast as the US average, they could add $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy – an overall increase of eight percent. This would be a tremendous achievement for the Latino community, of course, but also for our country.
How will you move forward and implement what you learned from the forum in your own field of work?
Our discussion about Latinos in society was a game-changer for me because it left me inspired not only to share what we’d discovered, but to re-create our robust conversation at The Latino Coalition’s future events. A candid dialogue about where our community has been, where we are, and where we are going, should be encouraged and facilitated as often as possible! This September 14 in DC, The Latino Coalition’s Capturing the Momentum Summit – focused on the Hispanic economic agenda – will feature a town hall forum where Hispanic business leaders will have a chance to share their thoughts on our role in the American socioeconomic fabric.
What did you learn from the forum that surprised you or challenged your previously held opinion?
Given the variety in political viewpoints we represented, I was surprised – in a very good way – by how much we agreed on, and how strongly we agreed on the destination, which is Latino’s rightful place in American society. There was terrific unity around how much we want to build, and leverage, some Latino socioeconomic muscle!
We’ve seen how important it is to promote understanding of how the success of the American Latino community, and the success of this nation, are deeply intertwined. One way is through Latino economic advancement. How do you maintain momentum in promoting this understanding?
Intertwined is the perfect way to put it. Our success is America’s success; we are America, and she is us. For all of us to win, we must have confidence and put aside any false sense of being “other.” A big part of winning, in anything – sports, business, any kind of achievement in life – is thinking of yourself as a winner. My hope is for all Latinos to have that mindset, every day, because they deserve to – we are an incredible economic and social powerhouse. I encourage all Hispanics to think, in their business lives and personal lives, “I am a winner,” because all opportunity – economic, social, educational – is a mindset.
This is the fifth in a series of posts on the Aspen Institute Forum on Latino Owned Business Growth. Participants from local and national economic and enterprise development and support organizations, Latino business owners, financial institutions, philanthropy, government and academia will share their perspectives on the challenges and solutions to scaling Latino owned businesses.