Dec. 01--Daniel Jara of Hackensack, a Peruvian-born businessman who led the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey for more than two decades, died Friday, the chamber said. He was 63.
Mr. Jara had suffered from spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease, and had been in a wheelchair since 1982. Despite his disability, he led the chamber at a time when New Jersey's Hispanic population and the number of Hispanic-owned businesses soared. Mr. Jara retired from the chamber about a year ago as his health problems worsened.
"He was a giant of a man," said Robert Unanue, president of Goya Foods of Secaucus, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States. "It is a great loss for our community."
Rafael Cuellar, a former member of the chamber board and owner of a ShopRite in Passaic, called Mr. Jara "a pioneer in the Hispanic business community."
"All chambers struggle, and he maintained the organization for over 20 years," Cuellar said, noting that his father was on the board when Mr. Jara started the chamber in 1989. He said Mr. Jara "opened up a lot of doors in the way of bridging for businesses, taking small Hispanic businesses and giving them the opportunity to work with larger American businesses."
Mr. Jara came to New Jersey at age 14 as a foreign exchange student. He attended Eastside High School in Paterson and received a bachelor's degree in economics and accounting and a master's degree in finance in business administration from Rutgers University.
He was the owner of Rimac Agency Inc., an accounting, insurance and travel firm in Hackensack. In 1989, he and four other Hispanic business owners formed the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to bring together Latino business leaders and represent their interests in Trenton. Mr. Jara served as president of the Newark-based organization for 22 years. Among other projects, he worked to help Hispanic-owned construction companies obtain government contracts. He also was active in the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
In a 2003 interview, Mr. Jara said that many Latinos became entrepreneurs after the factory jobs that drew them to New Jersey disappeared.
"When those manufacturing jobs left the state, there was no other way for Latinos to go forward than to start their own businesses," he said.
The state's Hispanic population more than doubled from 1990 to 2010, according to U.S. census figures. There were about 1.6 million Hispanic people in New Jersey in 2010, making up almost 18 percent of the population, up from about 740,000 in 1990, or 9.6 percent.
Mr. Jara was honored in 2007 by the Muscular Dystrophy Association for his achievements.
He is survived by his wife, Pilar; two sons, Daniel and Christopher, and a granddaughter.
(c)2012 The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)
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