Media Room

Hispanic Heritage Dinner
Sept. 10, 2015

I.  Welcome Remarks

Good evening and welcome to the Hispanic Heritage Celebration Dinner.
Thank you for supporting the great work of Gale Castillo and the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 
I’m so proud to be a part of tonight’s kickoff of Hispanic Heritage Month here in Oregon. Later this week, I will sign a proclamation in honor of this important month.
As your Governor, I have made it my priority to expand opportunities for all Oregonians to thrive, including the small business sector, the backbone of our state’s economy. 
I am here because I recognize the connection between the well-being of the Latino community and the well-being of Oregon’s economy statewide. 

Latinos make up 12 percent of Oregon’s total population, the state’s fastest growing demographic group.  (US Census)
One out of every 4 Oregon first-graders is Latino. (ODE Enrollment Report)
One out of every 5 current Oregon high school students is Latino. (ODE Enrollment Report)

The Latino community has been an important part of Oregon’s past and present, and – as the data shows – will be an even bigger part of Oregon’s future. 

And the market is responding to this dynamic. Many sectors of Oregon business increasingly seek employees who are bilingual and bicultural to serve an increasingly diverse clientele. Oregon’s economy is well served by businesses that recognize, value and reflect these swiftly changing demographics. 
Nationally, there are more than 3 million Latino-owned businesses that contribute more than $400 billion to the U.S. economy.

Here in Oregon, we have more than 11,000 Latino-owned businesses. And when Latino businesses grow, Oregon’s economy grows; when Latinos prosper, Oregon prospers.
While state government cannot create jobs, we can “grow our own.” We can add value by investing in the infrastructure that supports our small businesses and cultivates a skilled workforce.

This means a serviceable system of transportation, keeping our roads and bridges safe and in good repair, so businesses can get goods to market and workers can get to their jobs. It means helping small businesses grow and expand, identifying new resources and markets, and streamlining regulatory processes where we can. These investments are crucial, because 70 percent of new jobs come from existing Oregon businesses.

I want to highlight the work that the Hispanic Chamber has done to “grow our own.” This is the story of Rosa Martinez.   

Rosa is originally from California and moved to Oregon in 1997 where she graduated from Roosevelt High School and attended Portland Community College. Eleven years ago, Rosa and her husband Ramon started PMG Environmental Services, Inc., an asbestos abatement company. It is the only Latina- and woman-owned abatement company in Oregon.  
The Hispanic Chamber received a grant from the State of Oregon’s Technical Assistance Program, which played an essential role in establishing PMG. The Chamber helped PMG with issues, such as resolving customer contractual agreement concerns and providing networking opportunities that put PMG in contact with new customers and contracts.

The Hispanic Chamber facilitated networking events that have generated three contracts for PMG with a combined value of $130,000. PMG also landed a master agreement for selective abatement services with Oregon Health & Science University (OSHU).  

PMG is now a $2.5 million firm with a core staff of 20.   PMG has successfully removed approximately 2 million square feet of asbestos-laden building materials throughout Oregon and Washington. This is roughly the equivalent of about 41 football fields, generating about 1,700 tons of asbestos waste, resulting in a healthier environment.  

Rosa is now a leader in a highly-sensitive – and mostly male – industry. Through the mentorship and training she accessed through the Hispanic Chamber she now is a strong advocate for contracting opportunities for other small businesses owned by people of color. She participated in the Hispanic Chamber’s year-long leadership program and is now a member of its board of directors.  

Rosa says it best: “The idea that you can conceive a startup, grow a profitable business, and provide long-term employment in the community is symbolic of the American Dream, “ she said. “Together my husband and I had ‘our American Dream’.”

It’s the potential to help others like Rosa achieve their American Dream that fuels my passion for supporting small businesses. Thank you to the Hispanic Chamber for being a great partner in this work.

Perhaps the most important contribution I as Governor can make to expanding opportunity and sustaining long-term economic growth is ensuring high-quality public education – for every Oregon child, from birth to career.  Education is the key to a better life, and we must ensure all of Oregon’s children get the education and training necessary to succeed in today’s global economy. 

Let me tell you about Jose Sosa.

I met Jose because we both were invited to speak at the Clatsop Community College commencement exercises last June.

Born in Mexico, José's family moved to the United States when he was nine.  Unfortunately for José, his new school became a place to be bullied, and to listen to lessons that didn't make much sense to a poor, shy, non-native speaker who felt he didn't fit.  

          Through his high school years, he still hated school, and began abusing alcohol.  José's story could have ended there if not for his mom, his faith, and his teachers.  

          During a church service, José, a junior at the time, realized he needed to change.  He committed himself to working hard, to helping others, and he found a passion for math; a universal language that did not discriminate on the basis of where he came from.   

         He found caring teachers, who spent extra time explaining concepts to him. He said it was overwhelming to know so many teachers believed in him.  They supported him, challenged him and made him work hard to achieve greater things.  

         Outside his studies, he wanted to make the lives of other better.  He joined the Latino Club on campus, helped raise money for scholarships, and tutored in math.  

         He completed his associate’s degree and is now pursuing his education at Western Oregon University with the goal of becoming a math teacher. Because he knows: education changes lives.  

Jose’s story brings into sharp focus the importance of making a college education more affordable and accessible. We made important progress in the last legislative session, expanding the Oregon Opportunity Grant to thousands more college-bound students.

But I also want to applaud the Hispanic Chamber for the work you have done to raise money for your scholarship program, raising more than $1 million in scholarships for Latino students. Gale reported that the most popular majors of scholarship recipients are health care, engineering and business. Your collective commitment to college access is not only shaping the future economic prospects for these Latino students, you are also preparing the next generation of leaders in business and health care – a truly magnificent legacy. Thank you for stepping up in this important and powerful way. 
To the Bravo award winners tonight, thank you for your leadership and all that you contribute to Oregon. Please know that you are an integral part of the fabric of Oregon and very important to what makes our state unique and exceptional. 
It is my hope that my staff will exhibit the same leadership. In working toward ensuring success for all Oregonians, in my office we do not have one staff member assigned to equity work. Rather, everyone takes ownership and responsibility of ensuring that these values are present in all the work we do. 
Oregon is stronger because of the power and influence in this room. I have high expectations and know that, together, we can achieve great success. We can harness our collective will and aspirations and take it back to our businesses, our families, and our classrooms to inspire young people to reach their potential as future leaders of our state.

Thank you.