More than 500 people, including community business leaders, politicos and civic organizers, gathered at Harvey Convention Center Tuesday to celebrate Hispanic business success.
The Sixth Annual Hispanic Business Alliance Annual Achievers luncheon highlighted seven businesses among more than 30 nominees and featured statewide political hopeful George P. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush.
Bush told the audience that Hispanic businesses will play a growing role in Texas' economy.
Bush, whose mother is Mexican, said Texas' growth will create opportunity for entrepreneurs, but he challenged Hispanic community leaders and business owners to encourage success by being examples. Hispanics make up 16 percent of the state's population and accounted for 50 percent of its population growth during the last decade, he said.
With Hispanics expected to become the state's majority ethnic group by the end of the decade, Bush said it is time for community leaders to focus on addressing problems for a better future. Addressing high dropout rates, pointing at-risk youths toward a brighter future, educating future generations and promoting political participation will be keys to Hispanic communities' ability to lead.
"We're at a crossroads in the Hispanic community," he said. "Population growth means challenges," he said. "For Texas to remain competitive, we have to push education. Clearly, whether Democrat or Republican, we need to get behind public education."
Bush said Hispanics' poor record of political participation must change.
Hispanics made up 7 percent of the voting base in the state, he said. He called on Hispanics to become candidates in local races, to register to vote and go to the polls and to get involved with the political process.
"We're talking about a great sleeping giant when we talk about the Hispanic vote," he said. "It's hard to complain about the world around us without getting involved."
Price Arredondo, Hispanic Business Alliance director, said the Alliance is engaging Hispanic entrepreneurs, encouraging start-ups and helping business owners build better businesses and create a better community.
"What it says is we have businesses engaged and are helping more start-ups," he said. "More businesses are reaching out for help and it's important we help them become better businesses and community leaders."
Award recipients at Tuesday's Hispanic Business Alliance luncheon:
Los Gueros owners Andrew and Herminia Harrell started their business six years ago in 2007 with three employees. They now have eight employees and have become a food destination on Vine Avenue.
Noe Cedillo, owner of Calvary Plumbing, has been plumbing for 30 years. In 2009 he sold his portion of his previous business and started Calvary Plumbing.
Calvary Plumbing is a family owned and oriented business that has tried to stay small in order to provide quality work for their clients.
Licea Insurance Group
Eleno Licea is a small-business owner who has spent his professional life working and volunteering in Tyler. Licea opened Licea Insurance Group in Tyler in 2008. He has worked in the financial services industry for 12 years. Licea has served on the board for Tyler Independent School District for the past five years and is a past member of the board of directors for Bethesda Health Clinic. He is also the past president of the Hispanic Business Alliance and a past Board Member of the city's Planning and Zoning Commission.
Expert Auto Electric
Owner Juan Carreno arrived from Guerrero, Mexico, to California in 1992. He started his business in California but came to Tyler several times to visit friends and family until he decided to stay. In 2004, Juan opened Expert Auto Electric in Tyler. He recently built a new 6,000-square-foot facility on Texas Highway 64 and added two employees. He does complete electrical systems for cars, trucks and trailers.
Cindy's Balloons and Party Supply
Susana Gann helped her brother open Cindy's nine years ago but quickly discovered she enjoyed customer service and working to plan larger events. Today, Cindy's plans children's parties and more formal events, including weddings and quinceaneras.
Ms. Gann is certified in design and event decoration and now creates floral arrangements. The business has grown from $2,000 in inventory to more than $100,000 today.
Nidia Arellano Hassan is the director of admissions for Tyler Junior College and has been working in higher education for more than 14 years. Mrs. Hassan earned an associate of arts in business administration from Tyler Junior College and a bachelor's of business administration in accounting from The University of Texas at Tyler.
Mrs. Hassan established the Hispanic Student Organization in 2006, and has served as the HSO Advisor since its establishment.
St. Paul Children's Foundation
The organization began in the early 1990s. St. Paul Children's Foundation sees every day as an opportunity to make a difference in someone's life. Today, SPCF provides nutritious food, warm clothing, quality pediatric medical, dental care and spiritual support to over 40,000 children and their families each year.