News Column

Lasting Power

June 2007, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Hildy Medina

Anthony “Tony” Batarse Jr. worked at his father’s Ford dealership in El Salvador before coming to the U.S. and eventually buying his own dealership.
Anthony “Tony” Batarse Jr. worked at his father’s Ford dealership in El Salvador before coming to the U.S. and eventually buying his own dealership.

HB500 logo 2007

Over the last 25 years, The Hispanic Business 500 has reflected the U.S. Hispanic economy, showing images of remarkable achievement and a few spectacular flameouts. Most notably, it mirrors the story of Hispanic entrepreneurship.

A number of successful Hispanic companies have been excelling for years. Nineteen companies, in fact, have been on the Hispanic Business 500 [originally the Hispanic Business 400] since the magazine first printed its elite list in 1983.

>> View the "Silver 19"

These firms and their leaders have successfully managed and grown their businesses through two recessions and heavy competition while keeping pace with advances in technology. These firms have grown their revenues 1,600 percent, on average, since their first appearance on the list.

"I was just so pleased to see something out there, in a public information venue, that talked about other Latin and Hispanic-owned business," says Fred Ruiz, chief executive of Ruiz Foods, No. 18 on the 2007 list. "It was nice to know that other companies were achieving success. It was very important to me, it made me feel like I knew them."

"I knew it meant something to our staff," says M. Charito Kruvant, president and chief executive officer of Creative Associates International. "It's a validation of the many, many hours of work."

The Hispanic Business 500 has served as a point of reference for several prospective employees seeking work at Creative Associates. "One of them, in particular, a young Hispanic woman, felt that us being recognized was important enough to share with her family," Ms. Kruvant says.

Mr. Ruiz says the directory sends another message that is just as critical.

"Corporate America needs to see that there are successful Hispanic [entrepreneurs] out there and that they're growing just by looking at the total dollars," he says. "I think it is really important that Hispanic Business magazine provides that to Anglo America."

The list also illustrates that the Hispanic enterprise marketplace has been and continues to be a dynamic mix of industries from food manufacturers and office product suppliers to auto dealerships and architecture firms such as Wolfberg Alvarez and Partners, another one of the 19 companies that have been on the list from day one.

Based in Coral Gables, Florida, Wolfberg Alvarez was five years old when it first appeared on the HB400. At the time, the architecture firm was small and worked on a high number of government projects. Today, its project roster includes clients such as the Miami International Airport and the Vizcaya Art Museum in Miami.

CEO Julio Alvarez had been a reader of the nascent Hispanic Business magazine before the directory debuted.

"It was a new magazine and we are a minority-owned company, there wasn't anything else that had the kind of information you had in the magazine," says Mr. Alvarez, whose firm ranks No. 431.

"It was a publication we could relate to."

The Hispanic Business 500 gives his firm's clients a gauge from which to "look at the firm."

"We put it in our marketing materials because it's a good point of reference," Mr. Alvarez says.

"We're in a community where everybody knows everybody else, and down here in Miami there is a lot of cross-pollination."

While some entrepreneurs such as Mr. Alvarez started their businesses from scratch, others among the 19 took over small businesses and grew them into multimillion-dollar companies.

Anthony "Tony" Batarse Jr., CEO of Oakland, California-based Lloyd A. Wise Cos., was 38 in 1972 when he became a partner at the car dealership he would later purchase.

Not long after becoming partner, Mr. Batarse convinced his boss to expand the product line to include Honda vehicles. That expansion would lead to many others and would help make Lloyd A. Wise Cos. one of the leading Hispanic-owned auto dealerships in the country.

"I was taught by my father to do the best in whatever job I'm doing, whether it's making my bed or sweeping the floors," says Mr. Batarse, who bought the business in 1976 after Mr. Wise passed away.

"I followed that advice and I did the best job I could do and I succeeded beyond my expectations."

The list, says Mr. Batarse, sends a message to Hispanics that doing the "best job you can do can lead to great things."

Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine and, Copyright (c) 2007 All Rights Reserved.

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