Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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August 23, 2013

Free enterprise igniting stronger Latino community

Their leaders have a responsibility to mentor the young.

Each September, Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate “Latino culture,” an all-encompassing term that by no means does justice to the diversity of the population. It also represents a chance to explore the transformations underway at both the community and state levels, and as is often the case there can be little doubt that such transformation is being ignited by the growth in size and influence of the state’s Latino business leadership. Even a cursory look at data and trending leaves little doubt that as the population grows and matures, expanded entrepreneurism and professional development will continue to form the foundation for long-term community success.

This perpetual strengthening of Indiana’s Latino business community has mirrored substantially the population’s decade-long metamorphosis into our state’s, and indeed the nation’s, fastest-growing demographic. As one might expect, the most significant sprouting of businesses founded, overseen and managed by Latino Hoosiers has been observed in Marion and Lake counties, two of our state’s larger population centers and long the destinations for Hispanics migrating to Indiana. Still, we are now home to approximately 8,000 Latino-owned businesses, and one clear signal of the community’s ascension has been the prevalence of such small- and medium-sized firms in Anderson, Plymouth, French Lick and other areas historically well beyond the perimeter of Latino growth circles.

These leaders have more often than not provided much-needed direction and support to local community organizations that are caring for our most vulnerable. Latino business leaders have in countless instances understood their role in facilitating opportunity for the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs, of reinvesting in their home communities, and of organic transformation through advocacy and example one neighborhood at a time. As with other groups throughout our nation’s history, the rise in influence of the professional class is paying dividends not only for those less fortunate but for young professionals and students just now making their way into the workplace. The social gains are exponential, and we’re fortunate that so many Latino business folks have embraced their opportunity to be transformational.

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