By Katherine Harrington, President & CEO | West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce
Last week I attended the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce Latino Trade Network Lunch & Learn. The topic of the conversation was the “Growth & Impact of Latino Business in Iowa”. Chanel ABC Local 5 Anchor Samantha Mesa led the engaging discussion. Expert panelists included Marcela Hermosillo-Tarin – Employee Engagement Manager with Broadlawns, Yeymi Tobar – Recruitment Account Manager with Infinite Resources, Robert Barron – Executive Director, Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact, and Juan Pablo Sanchez – Director of Inclusive Business Strategies with the Greater Des Moines Partnership. This is what I learned during the conversation.
- Hard Workers: Latino business owners are known for their strong work ethic.
- Risk Takers: They often take entrepreneurial risks to achieve their goals.
- Barriers and Disparities: Various barriers and disparities exist today, including in household ownership, income, health, and immigration.
Perceptions vs. Reality:
- Participants discussed how 20 years ago, the state of Iowa looked very different, leading to a sense of loss and inadequacy among some individuals.
- However, many shared stories of how Des Moines had become their home and allowed them to achieve their potential.
- They emphasized that internal challenges can be overcome with determination and willpower.
Latino Population in Iowa:
- The Latino population in Iowa is growing rapidly, with a median age significantly lower than the state’s average.
- Latinos are a significant part of the future of the state, and their success contributes to the overall success of Iowa.
- Latino-owned businesses generate substantial revenue in the state, contributing to its economic growth.
Access to Capital:
- Attendees were encouraged to take control of their destinies and not wait for external assistance.
- Access to capital is available, but entrepreneurs need to be prepared with strong business plans.
- It was stressed that helping and elevating the community should be a priority.
Policy Changes and Advocacy:
- Economic conditions, tax authorities, and policy changes were discussed as factors influencing Latino businesses.
- Advocacy was highlighted as a powerful tool to bring about positive change.
- Participants were encouraged to ask tough questions of policymakers and hold them accountable for their actions.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI):
- Building influence in DEI efforts was emphasized as a collective effort.
- The importance of allies who understand and support the Latino community was emphasized.
- Building relationships and networking were seen as crucial for progress.
Community Involvement and Engagement:
- Attendees were encouraged to actively participate in the community.
- Serving on boards and being proactive in connecting with key individuals were recommended strategies for making a positive impact.
In summary, the event highlighted the growth and impact of Latino businesses in Iowa, discussed key trends and challenges, and emphasized the importance of access to capital, policy advocacy, DEI efforts, and community involvement in ensuring the continued success and growth of the Latino business community in the state.