"It's going to open the door wide for Hispanic engineers and other qualified Hispanics," he predicted. "The game is changing fast. Soon we'll have cell phones that are video-linked, have access to all television channels, and can be used to surf the Internet more easily.
"The future is tremendous for those Hispanics who embrace technology and prepare themselves for a career in it," Mr. Aguirre continued. "That's why education is so critical for us. With it we prosper. Without it, not only will Hispanics suffer, the entire nation's economy will drop."
Members of the Corporate Elite in the sectors of banking and finance are somewhat more cautious.
"We aren't making any predictions, nor will we comment on the current financial situation until much later in 2009," said Carlos Minetti, executive vice president of Discover Financial Services.
Mr. Minetti moved from American Express to Discover in 2001. At American Express, Mr. Minetti held positions in customer management, credit operations, global mail solutions, operations training, and risk management. Now he leads operations for all card member services functions, a wide responsibility in these unstable economic times.
The financial and insurance sector remains perhaps the most troubled sector. How long it will be before the credit crisis is resolved is a tough call because it is a worldwide problem and dependent on a number of factors. The general consensus is it may be well into 2010 before financial institutions are back at full capacity and that might even be optimistic. One ominous sign regarding consumer confidence in the markets was that at the end of 2008, zero percent U.S. Treasury bonds went on sale for the first time since the 1930s, and there were a number of buyers.
Few feel the stress of contemporary economic pressures more than Corporate Elite Dave Gonzales, senior vice president of State Farm Insurance's Great Western Zone.
"Yes, we've been negatively impacted by the downturn, just like everybody else. But we are financially strong and we invest with a long-term view and over the long-term, we, and our customers, have been very well served by those investments."
With Hispanics growing in numbers in the insurance sector, its strength is vitally important. The bailout of insurer AIG was a major signal that the U.S. government recognizes the critical nature of the large firms, which must now prove they will no longer make the mistakes of the past.
"We have to use all the tools available to us to measure risk as accurately as possible," said Mr. Gonzales. "We also must provide quality products and world-class service." The latter statement has long been the mantra of many businesses, but in 2009, achieving those goals may make the difference between survival and the alternative.
Observers say look for increased mergers and consolidations, belt-tightening measures, careful risk management, tough credit, and unfortunately, relatively high unemployment in 2009. For many companies, it is a year that may prove a narrow and often treacherous bridge to the promise of recovery in 2010 and beyond.
The symbol of the financial collapse of the country might be the fall of the American auto industry. General Motors and Chrysler have stumbled heavily and sought a government bailout. But one of our Corporate Elite, Grace Lieblein, proves there's a silver lining in every cloud.
Ms. Lieblein in late 2008 was tapped to head GM de Mexico. She rose to the heights at GM after a humble start as a student in GM's assembly division. Ms. Lieblein wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father, Rolando Larrinua, who was an hourly employee at GM's Los Angeles plant.
As she rose up the ranks, Ms. Lieblein led the drive to produce smaller, more fuel-efficient sport-utility vehicles. She and a team of engineers created the 2008 Buick Enclave, marketed as the brand's first luxury crossover vehicle, which received huge publicity last year thanks to professional golfer Tiger Woods' endorsement in television commercials.
In her new post, charged with maintaining GM's lead amid declining market share in Mexico, Ms. Lieblein is revved and raring to go in 2009.
"All challenges also bring opportunities," Ms. Lieblein told Hispanic Business Media. "As the market changes, we will continue to evaluate our product portfolio, to ensure that we are matching supply with demand. The GM de Mexico team has a proven track record of having a 'can do' attitude in the face of adversity that will benefit us during this difficult time."
To read more about all 25 of Hispanic Business Media's Corporate Elite, including the list from previous years, visit www.hispanicbusiness.com.
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