This year’s Hispanic Business Entrepreneur of the Year finalists hail from the aerospace, auto retailing, and telecommunications industries.
FRANCISCO GARCIA – Services & Finance
During the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, Francisco Garcia never strayed from his business plan – seeking federal aerospace defense contracts. Integrated Information Technology Corp. (IITC), which specializes in satellite communications, network and computer services, and communication system engineering and installation, stayed focused on serving the military, even though margins in the private sector would almost certainly have been higher.
Mr. Garcia’s strategic decision has paid off. Last year IITC generated $16.7 million in sales, up from $6.7 million the year before.
A former Air Force officer, Mr. Garcia launched IITC in 1991 as a one-man shop in O’Fallon, Illinois, and moved the company to Denver in 1994. Today the firm has 250 employees and another 200 subcontractors and has made the transition from small subcontractor to prime contractor.
ALLAN VIGIL – Retail & Franchise
Unsure what line of work he would go into after returning from Vietnam in 1970, Allan Vigil jumped at a chance to become field manager for a Ford dealership in Atlanta, in part because he could get a new car in the bargain.
Today his Allan Vigil Ford dealership in Jonesboro, Georgia, is poised to open a new 28-acre facility in nearby Morrow. The $20 million facility will consolidate the dealership’s current operations on one site that will include new and used car sales, fleet sales, service bays, a body shop, a rental car office, and a restaurant for customers and employees.
"We had to decide whether to sell out to new larger groups or do something we can leave for the next generation," says Mr. Vigil, whose company sales topped $176.3 million last year. "It’s going to be one of the nicest facilities, and one that can grow."
ILEANA DiMARIO – Latina
Ileana DiMario knows about adjusting to change. Years ago, the Peru native had to cut her veterinary studies short when her father died. Later, while working in the airline industry, she married and moved to Orlando, Florida.
After working for eight years in the telecommunications industry, selling equipment mainly to customers in Latin America, she and partner Reynaldo Rodriguez founded Maya Telecom in 1998. Based in Lake Mary, Florida, the company specializes in selling equipment that is at least two years old.
"Manufacturers keep discontinuing products," explains Ms. DiMario. "Someone has to help maintain them."
Maya's niche has proved very profitable. The firm's revenues topped $16.4 million last year. The firm also has successfully diversified its customer base to offset slowing sales in some quarters. Maya counts Verizon, Sprint, and Alltel among its customers.
MARCELO CLAURE – Rising Star
Five years ago, Marcelo Claure saw an opportunity to provide Latin American countries with value-added services for the budding wireless telecommunications market.
Today, his company, Miami-based Brightstar Corp., is on track to record more than $1 billion in annual sales. It has more than 450 employees and earlier this year launched its first foray into the U.S. market.
"Historically, Latin America had been served by manufacturers and distributors from Miami, with very little in-country presence," he says. "We immediately saw a need for a distribution company to open sales and distribution centers throughout the Americas to be close to our customers."
Mr. Claure, originally from Bolivia, is now setting his sights on other global regions, including the competitive U.S. market.
"As more network operators focus on their core business – selling airtime – they will rely on companies like Brightstar to outsource all of their inventory and product needs," he says.
Latina: Brenda Arbelaez-Nock, PALS International, Troy, MI; Lydia Hernandez, Hot Shots Athletic Apparel, Walnut, CA. Manufacturing: Frank Venegas Jr., The Ideal Group, Detroit, MI; Tino Ornelas, Ornelas Enterprises, Hillsboro, OR. Retail & Franchise: Angel Banos Jr., Gold’s Gym Hollywood, Hollywood, CA; Victor Covarrubias, Victor Buick GMC, Corona, CA. Rising Star: Enrique Javier Loya, Choice! Energy, Houston, TX; Alba M. Aleman, Cairo Corp., Manassas, VA. Services & Finance: Jim Baldonado, The Home Agency, Elwood, NE; Henry R. Muñoz III, Kell Muñoz Architects, San Antonio, TX.