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Joe Aldaz

United States Latinos are driving our country’s economic growth and most Americans don’t know that. Unfortunately, city, state and federal agencies are making decisions based on misperceptions and not data.

A case in point, the growth of the Latino population is in direct relation to the impact Latinos have on the local and national economy. By 2050, population estimates predict that one in three Americans will be Latino. In Colorado, more than 21 percent of the population is Latino with an average age of 26, compared to 42 percent for non-Hispanic Whites. El Paso county was one of five counties in Colorado with the highest Latino population growth from 2010 to 2014 and continues as one of the fastest growing populations at 18 percent.  

At $2.3 trillion, the U.S. Latino gross domestic product is the eighth largest in the world — larger than that of India, Italy, Brazil or Canada. The Latino GDP would trail only the U.S., China, Germany, the United Kingdom and France. Why is this significant? Latinos are the major component of growth of the U.S. workforce. While the non-Latino workforce shrank by about 4,000 workers between 2010 and 2015, the Latino workforce grew by nearly 2.5 million, powering an overall increase of 2.4 million in the workforce ages 25-64. This has resulted 2017 Latino business sales in El Paso County at $949.7 million and is expected to reach $1.5 billion in 2022, according to the El Paso County census. According to World Demographic Research, there are more than 6,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in the Pikes Peak region, as of 2017. And Latino businesses are projected to reach more than 9,000 by 2022. 

This new Latino paradigm displays the economic impact Latinos make on the American economy. Now is the time for non-Latino Americans to understand their fellow U.S. Latinos. According to Penn, Schoen and Berland, Americans who do not know Latinos are more likely to believe negative stereotypes. 

Here are but just a few examples: Americans who have non-Latino acquaintances are 54 percent more likely to believe “Latinos are a drag on the economy.” While 25 percent of Americans with Latino acquaintances believe otherwise. Another misperception is 52 percent of Americans with non-Latino acquaintances believe “Most Latinos are illegal immigrant,”  while 27 percent of those Americans with Latino acquaintances believe otherwise.  Why are these misperceptions so prevalent in the U.S.?  Research from Columbia University and Accenture shows those who don’t know Latinos, instead form their perceptions from entertainment media: Latinos accounted for less than 3 percent of the actors and directors on TV shows and in feature films from 2017 and when visible, they tend to be portrayed as criminals, law enforcers, cheap labor and hypersexualized beings.

Despite the misperceptions and uninformed beliefs by some Americans, Latinos in our community are making a difference in our local economy. Meet Guillo Beauchamp, proprietor of Don Guillo which provides a taste of Puerto Rican cuisine in the Rocky Mountains and who has battled through the pandemic and can see light on the other end. Another notable Latino making a difference in our local economy is 2021 Rising Star and 2020 Hispanic Chamber Business of the Year: Diego Lujan, owner of Alphalete Plumbing. Lujan’s spirit of entrepreneurism has established himself as a reputable and customer service-oriented company in the local plumbing industry. Other notable Latina business owners in our community powering our economy are Shirley Jimenez of E-Multi Services LLC specializing in tax preparation, payroll and sales taxes, business registration and business licenses. Jessica Fierro, head brewer of Atrevida Beer Company, has carved her niche in a male dominated brewer market. And there is Ismery Montoya of Wanballoons LLC an innovative balloon decoration for all occasions business. Next time you’re looking for services in our community, these are but a few Hispanic businesses that are driving small business growth and growing our local and state tax bases.  

We challenge our city, county and business leaders to understand the impact of the Latino dollar and the serial entrepreneurs impacting our local economy. Latinos accounted for 24.4 percent of total GDP growth in 2020.  Latinos are driving new business growth and new business means new jobs for all Americans! 

Joe Aldaz is president of the Colorado Springs Hispanic Business Council.