News Column

Entrepreneurship as a Way of Life

January/February 2006, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Entrepreneurs and community leaders gathered in Beverly Hills recently for the 15th Annual Hispanic Business Magazine EOY® (Entrepreneur of the Year) Awards Gala. By night's end, David Hernandez, CEO of Florida-based Liberty Power, left the Beverly Hilton carrying the 2005 EOY Award trophy.

The gala to honor Hispanic business-builders came after a full day of discussions about access to capital in the U.S. Hispanic economy that included CEOs and financial market specialists.

The idea of Hispanic economic empowerment – so central to the day sessions – also provided the major theme for the evening gala's speeches and presentations. (A full report on information exchanged during the daytime CEO Roundtable On Capital Markets will appear in the March issue of Hispanic Business.)

Between the roundtable and the gala, participants networked vigorously at a cocktail reception.

Mistress of Ceremonies Melinda Guzman, general counsel, USHCC, and a partner in the Sacramento-based law firm Goldsberry, Freeman, Guzman & Ditora, opened the gala by introducing a video reviewing the EOY's 15-year history. Hispanic Business Editor & Publisher Jesús Chavarría then spoke, noting that the EOY has fulfilled its mission of honoring the Hispanic pioneers who "chose entrepreneurship as a way of life."

Fabian Nuñez, Speaker of the California Assembly, delivered the keynote speech. He noted that the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) has $10.7 billion invested in California companies of all sizes, but "for minority-owned businesses, we can and we must do more. … I have met with CalPERS on multiple occasions to discuss expanding these opportunities as it pertains to Hispanic-owned companies and private equity firms. Our challenge is to move capital into the hands of the small businesses that we know can thrive in every community."

Cadillac participated as headline sponsor for the gala, providing its 2006 SRX SUV and STS sedan for inspection in the foyer. Presenting sponsors included AXA Advisors, IBM, FedEx, Microsoft, and Choice Hotels International. The Lifetime Achievement Award sponsor was LaSalle Bank. Fess Parker Vineyards provided wine for the evening.

After a dinner accompanied by the music of The Chico Band, Kevin J. Murphy of the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business talked about how faculty from the school judged the finalists for this year's EOY Awards. Alma Crossley, director of minority dealer development at General Motors, followed with a speech about GM's promotion of Hispanic entrepreneurs in the auto industry. In 2004, GM purchased $6.6 billion in goods and services from minority firms.

Top Business-Builders by Sector
The presenters announced winners of the EOY awards in five categories. (For details on these category winners and the other high-profile finalists who contended in the final round of judging, see sidebar "Winners All.")

•Bert Salazar, executive vice-president of the financial services firm AXA Advisors, presented the Rising Star (entrepreneur under age 35) and InfoBusiness Awards.

•Raul Fuentes, manager of emerging markets at Choice Hotels, delivered the Trade Industry Award. His remarks linked the trade industry category to franchising as practiced in the hotel sector.

•California State Senator Liz Figueroa presented the award in the Latina Entrepreneur category.

•Tom Prucha, district sales manager for FedEx in Southern California, bestowed the Heavy Industry Award. This category includes the construction, manufacturing, and automotive sectors.

Two Top Awards
Jorge Solis, senior vice-president of LaSalle Bank, presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Alphonso Diaz, former top scientist at NASA (see accompanying article "Shooting for the Stars"). A brief video inspired the audience with dramatic images of planets and stars obtained through programs such as the Hubble Space Telescope that Mr. Diaz supervised during his career.

Finally, Ms. Crossley returned to the stage to present the 2005 EOY Award to Mr. Hernandez, who also won the Rising Star category. He reiterated the event's theme of economic progress. "As Hispanics we represent 15 to 20 percent of the energy consumption in this country, yet we represent less than one tenth of
1 percent of ownership in the industry," Mr. Hernadez stated. "We started Liberty Power to change that."

In addition to the EOY trophy, each winner received a special certificate of recognition from the California State Senate, delivered by Senator Liz Figueroa.


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