Hispanic Heritage Celebration
Sept. 8, 2016
Good evening. I am so pleased to be here with you to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month.
First, I want to say congratulations to Oscar Arana for taking the helm of the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber seven months ago – almost to the day. Your leadership and commitment to supporting Latino business owners and empowering a pipeline of Latino leaders and students are inspiring. Congratulations to you, the staff, and your network of volunteers for organizing your first Hispanic Heritage Celebration. I look forward to many more.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Chamber’s leadership program. To date, more than 200 Latino leaders have graduated and now serve in roles including as prominent business and nonprofit executives, higher education officials, and policy makers. Some lead key organizations, such as the Latino Network, Centro Cultural, and at this very organization, the Hispanic Chamber.
This pipeline is a path toward institutional transformation. It is through mentorship and leadership development, and by supporting community organizations such as the Hispanic Chamber that we create a more equitable Oregon. For me, this work starts at home in the Governor’s Office. It is a priority of mine to continue to diversify my office, and the makeup of state government, particularly in leadership, to be more reflective of Oregon’s people.
The Chamber also has its eye on supporting future leaders by providing scholarships to Latino students in Oregon. Since the program began 20 years ago, the Chamber has awarded nearly 800 scholarships totaling more than $2 million. Because of the commitment of the Chamber, Oregon students can start or continue their educations.
This matters because 80 percent of these scholarship recipients are the first in their families to attend college and are from low- to moderate-income families. And – fortunate for our state – 98 percent of scholarship recipients choose to attend college in Oregon. We can all thank the Chamber for providing support to students and opening the doors of opportunity so they may pursue their dreams.
Improving college affordability and accessibility are among my top education priorities, and I’m grateful for organizations such as the Hispanic Chamber, who recognize the value of higher education. I look forward to working with you to make higher education a reality for more Oregon students who might not otherwise have the opportunity.
Beyond expanding access to education, the Chamber serves an important role in supporting entrepreneurs.
I’ve seen the impact of the Hispanic Chamber to advocate and help train Latino business owners so that their firms have the opportunities to thrive. As Latino businesses grow, they help to keep our economy humming – and their contributions are immense:
Our most recent state figures show there are more than 15,000 Hispanic-owned firms in Oregon, which makes up more than 5 percent of the state’s firms.
Hispanic-owned firms in Oregon had more than 16,500 employees. The annual payroll of Hispanic-owned firms in Oregon was $433 million.
One of the many thriving Latino-owned business is Lara Media Services, founded by Victoria Lara.
Victoria and her family owned several businesses in her home state of Chihuahua, Mexico, including a travel agency and a store that sold Mexican candies and rented comics. When she moved to Oregon in 1996, her entrepreneurial spirit continued. Four years later, she began her own advertising company out of her home. She was the only employee.
The Chamber provided classes where she learned about everything from taxes to what was going on in the community. She was a sponge, she says. More importantly, the Chamber provided a community of Latino businesses who united as a collective voice.
“I saw this as an opportunity to be with other Latino businesses so we could have a voice and become stronger together,” she says.
Being a part of the Chamber opened the door for Victoria’s business to grow. She made connections to decision makers at larger firms and government agencies through the Chamber’s network, which helped to expand her business.
Today, Victoria’s business has grown to a company that offers advertising, market research, and public relations services. She’s moved out of her home office and now employees five full-time employees, two part-time employees, and works with interns and independent contractors.
Perhaps one of her favorite moments was contributing to the Hispanic Chamber’s scholarship fund in 2010. The recipient: Oscar Arana. She still has the picture to prove it, and says everything comes full circle when you’re part of the Chamber.
Victoria, please stand – thank you for all you do.
Again, congratulations to the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber for building and supporting leaders and businesses. Congratulations to the Bravo Award recipients. The work you do for and with the Latino community strengthens Oregon as a state.