Thousands of Latino entrepreneurs and business people from
across the state are gathering in Oakland this week, hoping to strengthen their
growing force in the California economy.
As the state's Latino population surpasses the white population to become the largest group by the end of the year, business leaders say challenges remain in ensuring that Latino entrepreneurship and economic well-being matches a growing population.
"California is going to have to rely on this workforce and business community to grow our economy in the future," said Mark Martinez, president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "The reality is the future lies in the hands of this large, young, vibrant population."
The three-day conference begins Wednesday at the Oakland Marriott Civic Center downtown and could attract about 3,000 Hispanic business leaders from throughout the state.
More than 16 percent of California businesses are owned by Hispanic entrepreneurs, according to the last U.S. Survey of Business Owners in 2007. That amounts to more than half-a-million firms with more than $81 billion in annual receipts, according to the survey.
This is the second time in seven years that Oakland has hosted the conference. The Port of Oakland was one of the main draws, organizers said.
Among the speakers will be TV personality Daisy Fuentes; Richard Montanez, who went from a janitor to a top Frito-Lay executive who created Flamin' Hot Cheetos; musician Sheila E.; former astronaut and Central Valley congressional candidate Jose Hernandez; syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette; and Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana.
Many attendees will hope to get practical advice on how to cover the health care of employees under President Barack Obama's new national health care law, and how to grow businesses and navigate government regulations and other challenges.
"We still receive very little of the government contracts out there," said Jose Duenas, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Alameda County and a former port executive who worked in international trade. The Alameda County chapter is hosting this year's event, which also marks the 35th year of the California Hispanic Chamber.
Contact Matt O'Brien at 510-208-6429 or follow him at twitter.com/mattoyeah
(c)2013 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)
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