The president of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said Friday that he is proud to advocate on behalf of business owners who happen to be of Hispanic decent. But he reminded a Pasco audience they must never forget that first and foremost they are American businesses.
"Every tax bill we pay, every person we employ and every product we manufacture ... goes to support this American economy," Javier Palomarez said.
Palomarez was the featured speaker at the annual Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Shining Lights Gala and Leadership Awards, held at TRAC. He also is CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber, which is the leading advocate for nearly 3 million Hispanic-owned businesses and about 200 local Hispanic chambers throughout the country.
Palomarez, who is based in Washington, D.C., said he travels around the country meeting the owners of Hispanic businesses, which are the fastest growing segment of American enterprise. Today, one in every six people living in America is of Hispanic decent, he added.
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"Small businesses are the backbone of our economy," and Latinos are becoming entrepreneurs three to one to the general American market, he said. They are taking risks, starting new ventures, providing jobs and creating a strong economic tax base.
Palomarez acknowledged that the nation continues to face unprecedented economic challenges. That's why the U.S. Hispanic Chamber needs to continue engaging corporate partners and chambers to work together and provide training for the benefit of communities like the Tri-Cities.
"We have to fight to make sure that America continues to be the greatest country in the world. Part of the reason we are is we have a strong and vibrant work force, a willing work force that will not be outdone by any other nation," he said. "If you support American small business then you support Hispanic small business, and here in Washington state I believe you are."
Palomarez thanked the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for the privilege of speaking to a group he said is supporting the American way of life.
"We get to go all over the country ... and the community that I've witnessed here, the warmth and decency and just the good American values with everybody that I've met, are wonderful," he said.
Palomarez was introduced by Martin Valadez, president of the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Valadez was excited about this year's awards, saying the chamber expanded its recognition to include a veteran and a nonprofit corporation. The chamber received a record 25 overall nominations this year.
"Some of the people we recognize are people who are well known in the community," Valadez said. However, the chamber also likes to bring attention to a deserving person who may work behind the scenes and out of the limelight, but still makes significant contributions, he said.
"The people we recognize don't have to be of Hispanic of Latino origin, but help in the development of Latinos in the Tri-Cities," Valadez told the Herald.
The winners of this year's Leadership Awards were:
w Latina Educator of the Year (K-12) -- Christy Rasmussen, principal of New Horizons High School in Pasco.
w Latino Educator of the Year (Higher Education) -- Martin Valadez, Columbia Basin College vice president for diversity & outreach.
w Latino Veteran of the Year -- Salvador Beltran Jr., member of the Army's 173rd Airborne during the Vietnam War.
w Latino Public Servant of the Year -- Chris Littrell, Kennewick Police Department gang detective.
w Business of the Year -- Miguel Angulo, Mi Casa Furniture owner.
w Nonprofit Organization of the Year -- Columbia Center Rotary Club.
w Latina Community Leader of the Year -- Sarah Del Toro, Kennewick School District's parent involvement coordinator.
w Latina Health Care Professional of the Year -- Betty Ramon, Lourdes Health Network.
w Latino Lifetime Achievement Recognition -- Bill Robinson, Pasco Flea Market owner.
w Latina Lifetime Achievement Recognition -- Gloria Garcia, Mid-Columbia Libraries chairwoman and former executive director of the Pasco Downtown Development Association.