The Hispanic population in the United States continues to grow at a rapid pace, and that translates into big money when it comes to business in America.
President and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Javier Palomarez told a group of Rio Grande Valley business leaders that Latino entrepreneurs contribute more than $668 billion to the U.S. economy each year.
“The Hispanic community has become a defining feature in the changing face of our America,” said Palomarez, an alumnus of the University of Texas Pan American. “But with that, we all have a responsibility. As the total U.S. Hispanic population grows, so does the ability to determine the course of our nation’s economic, social and political future.”
Palomarez spoke to a luncheon at the Rancho Viejo Conference Center hosted by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship to recognize Valley business leaders.
More than 53 percent of the overall population growth in the United States over the last decade came from the Hispanic community, he said, adding that it is projected the trend will keep up a similar pace over the next 10 years. “Today, our community represents the largest community group with more than 57 million Hispanics living in the U.S.,” he said. “If you are not related to a Latino right now, give us 15 minutes and we will get to you.”
The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is the largest Latino business association in the nation, actively promoting the economic growth of 4.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses, with new ones getting off the ground at a 3-to-1 ratio compared to the general population.
“Hispanic-owned businesses have become a national treasure,” Palomarez said. “A proud chapter in America that was built, pursued and renewed by immigrants and pioneers – that is our real history.”
Going beyond Hispanic-owned businesses, the overall economic impact of Hispanics living and working in the United States is even greater. A recently released study documents that in 2015, Latinos living and working in the United States were responsible for $2.13 trillion, or 11.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. According to the researchers, if the 2015 Hispanic economic contributions were looked at as an economy of its own, it would have been the seventh largest in the world, just behind France and ahead of India.
The study was released in June by the Latino Donor Collaborative, a nonpartisan association of Hispanic business, political and academic leaders. The researchers relied on data from the Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, Bureau of Labor, World Bank, and the University of Minnesota to reach their findings.
With negotiations underway to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, and with some politicians calling for its elimination, Palomarez said the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce views NAFTA as a major economic driver. “The reason we care so deeply about NAFTA is that it has created one of the most competitive regions in the country,” he said, referring to the Valley and other communities along the U.S.-Mexico border.
He said NAFTA has been responsible for 600 million jobs in the United States. Mexico is this country’s largest trading partner and 98 percent of companies in foreign trade are small businesses. Texas alone exports $93 billion in goods to Mexico every year.
“We support updating and renegotiating NAFTA but not doing away with it,” Palomarez said. “That will never happen. It would be bombastic.” He suggested a revised treaty might be renamed the North American Fair Trade Agreement.
Palomarez ended his remarks with a few comments on the volatile nature of American politics in today’s world. “We have been way too focused on the labels that divide the United States. Now it’s time to stop being Democrats or Republicans and start being Americans. We must speak with one voice, an American voice.”