Price Arredondo, who recently stepped down as director of the Hispanic Business Alliance, was recognized for his tireless work for the organization during its annual Achievers Awards Luncheon on Tuesday.

Eleno Licea, who serves on the Hispanic Business Alliance Board of Directors, said Arredondo was hired seven years ago to serve as the organization's first director.

"We could've never imagined where he'd take it," he said, adding that Arredondo worked tirelessly to move the new organization forward, placing it at the forefront of the community.

He created a good environment for not only the Hispanic businesses, but all businesses, Licea said. Arredondo dedicated himself to creating an incredible brand for the Hispanic Business Alliance, he added.

"So Price, on behalf of the Hispanic Business Alliance and the Tyler Hispanic community, I want to thank you for your seven years of service. … We couldn't have done this without you," Licea said.

The Hispanic Business Alliance provides services and support to new and existing businesses, mostly owned by Hispanics. Its Board of Directors continues to search for a replacement to lead the organization after Arredondo announced his resignation in March. Arredondo has continued to help the organization during the transition.



The Annual Achievers Awards Luncheon started seven years ago to recognize Hispanic-owned businesses that have been successful in their respective industries.

Shannon Dacus, secretary/treasurer of the Hispanic Business Alliance Board of Directors, presented the Achievers Awards to the eight recipients. She said there were 33 nominees for the eight categories and a committee selected two finalists for restaurant, established, business, micro-business, woman-owned business, contractor, professional and community impact leader. Out of the finalists, the recipients were announced during the luncheon.

"Each inspire us, remind us and encourage us of what we can achieve if we work hard," Ms. Dacus said.

La Plazita, at 11980 Texas Highway 64 West, received the Restaurant of the Year Award. Mario Cornelio came from Guerrero, Mexico in 1979. After working for local restaurants for 28 years, he opened La Plazita in 2006. After two expansions and adding a patio, he now has 14 employees.

Palacios Custom Cabinets, at 119 W. Oakwood, received Contractor of the Year. The company was started three years ago by Oscar Palacios. Born in Mexico, he has been living in Tyler for 17 years. He and his two brothers worked for a company for about 10 years until it closed and they decided to start their own business four years ago. They have 11 employees and make custom kitchen cabinets for homes.

Mechanical Transportation Systems LLC, at 15789 Texas Highway 64 East, received the Micro-Business of the Year Award, given to a business started less than three years ago. At 9, Edwin Torres emigrated from El Salvador to the U.S. in 1980. He lived in California, Oregon and back in El Salvador before moving to Tyler in 2004. After working in the transportation field, he started a company 14 months ago with one truck and one employee. He now has 14 trucks, 12 employees and six contractors.

The Established Business of the Year, given to a business open for at least five years, was given to Chema's Auto and Tires, at 1634 S. Vine Ave. Jose Saucedo started buying cars, fixing them up and selling them in 2005. Two years later, he opened his first location, followed by a second one in 2009. Saucedo and his wife, Anahi Hernandez, have 11 employees, offers mechanic repairs and deal new and used tires.

Walter Perez, principal of T.J. Austin Elementary School, received the Professional of the Year Award. He was born in 1965 in Canelones, Uruguay, where he grew up on a family farm. In 1991, he received a scholarship to attend college in East Texas. In 1997, he began his career for Tyler Independent School District while attending The University of Texas at Tyler. He began teaching bilingual at Austin Elementary, followed by Griffin Elementary and two years as a bilingual gifted and talented teacher. In 2001, he earned a master of education and principal certification from Texas A&M University. He helped Austin Elementary receive a $50,000 grant this year to create the Leader in Me Program to put an iPad in the hands of every student.

The Women-Owned Business of the Year Award went to Crystal Clear Insurance Co., owned by Marseline Soto. Her family was from Monterrey, Mexico, but she was born in Texas and moved to Tyler in 1981. She has worked in the insurance field for more than 10 years, and opened her business in 2011. She has over 800 clients and three employees. She also volunteers for several organizations, including for the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce to teach English classes to Hispanic business owners.

The Nonprofit of the Year Award was given to the Literacy Council of East Texas, which serves more than 300 adults, mostly Hispanics, in 20 classes per week. The English as a Second Language (ESL) program has been in place for more than 20 years and all classes are free.

A new award this year, the Community Impact Leader Award, was given to Christina Mennella Fulsom. She is the founder and network weaver of the East Texas Human Needs Network, established in 2012 to meet the needs of enormous scale that transcend the capacity of individual social services agencies. It is made up of more than 60 organizations that include government, business, philanthropy and nonprofits. Ms. Fulsom moved to the U.S. from Madrid, Spain when she was 15. She served as executive director of PATH (People Attempting to Help) for eight years and also was a planner for the Monticello Area Community Action Agency. Her first career was as a judiciary interpreter. She serves on several community boards.

Organizers said 491 people attended the annual luncheon at Green Acres Baptist Church CrossWalk Center.

Event sponsors were Brookshire's Grocery Co., Super 1 Foods and FRESH by Brookshire's. PepsiCo, AERO Mexico, John Soules Food, First Alt. Fuel Inc., Southside Bank, Tyler Junior College, Heritage Land Bank, The Dacus Firm, Potter Minton, Income Solutions, UT Health Northeast, Greater Texas Capital Corporation, Wagner Cadillac and Flowers Davis were also sponsors, among others.

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