BROWNSVILLE, RGV – U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Javier Palomarez, a Rio Grande Valley native, gave the keynote speech at the Business Leaders Luncheon hosted by UT-Rio Grande Valley’s Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

The event was held at the Rancho Viejo Conference Center in Brownsville. Three local VIPs were honored at the event: educator JoAnn Gonzales Gama, and businessmen Emigdio Manuel Garcia, and Nick Serafy, Jr.

Here is Palomarez’s speech:

A National Treasure


“It is good to be back in the Valley.

“As president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce I have the honor of representing 4.2 million Hispanic-owned firms in this country that collectively contribute over $668 billion to our American economy every year. We also advocate on behalf of 270 major American corporations and we do this through an umbrella of 200 local chambers throughout this nation. We are the only Hispanic organization in Washington, D.C., that refuses to take money from the government or any government entity of any kind. applause. And while we advocate for business men and women who happen to be, proudly so, of Hispanic descent, we never forget that we are first and foremost American businesses. Every tax bill we pay, every job we create, every product we manufacture, every service we provide, is to benefit our American economy. (applause). With that in mind, to us, and to me, one reality is clear, the Hispanic community has become a defining feature in the changing face of our America.

“But with that we all have a responsibility. As the total Hispanic U.S. population grows, so does our ability to determine the course of our nation’s economic, social, and political future. Just consider the following facts: from a population standpoint, in the last decade, more than 53 percent of the overall population growth in this country came from the Hispanic community. And in the next decade, more than 50 percent of the overall population growth will once again come from our Hispanic community. And not through immigration. Through birth rate. We’re Catholic, I guess. Today our community represents the nation’s largest minority group with over 57 million Hispanics living in the U.S. From an economic standpoint the GDP of American Hispanics right now is at 2.2 trillion dollars. If the U.S. Hispanics were a country unto themselves, we would have the seventh largest GDP on the globe and our GDP would be larger than India, than Russia, than Italy and many other countries. And from a political perspective, as we stand right now, every 30 seconds a Latino turns 18 and becomes an eligible voter. That is why we are seeking 2,000 brand new voters every single month and that would be the case for the next 21 years in a row. So, if you want to run for elected office, whether you want to be the local dog catcher or the president of the United States, you had better think about the Hispanic community.

“And, if that was not enough, today, one in four children in school is of Hispanic descent. And right now, one in six people alive and breathing in the United States is of Hispanic descent. And as I like to say, if you are not related to Latino right, right, this second, give us about 15 minutes and we will get to you too. Last but not least, my favorite statistic, Hispanic-owned businesses are starting up at a rate of three to one, compared to the general market. And these entrepreneurial men and women are leading overall small business growth – by the way, a segment of the economy that is responsible for creating two thirds of all new jobs in this country. Ladies and gentlemen, these numbers speak for themselves. And thanks to leaders such as all of you, and organizations like the ones you represent, Hispanic-owned businesses have become a national treasure, a proud chapter in America that was built, preserved and renewed by immigrants and pioneers. That is our real history.

“In fact, in this town, and in this very room, the men and women among us, Hispanic or not, who are the business owners, the innovators, the job creators, the educators, the elected officials, who are leading the way, blazing the new trail, you are all to be commended. So many of you are shining examples of leadership and influence, not only in this community but throughout our nation. My association needs you, America needs you. Especially at a time like this. You are a shining example and you are who I hold up when I am in Washington, D.C. You are who I refer to when I talk about the future and the potential of America’s Hispanic community. We need you because you understand that you are living at the nexus of not only one but two cultures, and two major economies. Offering particular challenges, that is for sure, but more importantly, unique opportunities from a cultural and a commercial perspective.”

NAFTA


“With all the recent rhetoric around the border, around jobs, free trade, honestly, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a few moments to highlight some of the reasons at the USHCC care so deeply about the commercial and economic ties between the United States and Mexico. Including NAFTA and the implications for our whole country but particularly for Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. Now to put things into perspective, NAFTA has succeeded in creating one of the most competitive regions in the world and along the way has spurred growth especially for American businesses. Since NAFTA was established in the early 1990s, trade between the U.S. and Mexico has created six million good-paying American jobs. Today, Mexico ranks as our third largest trading partner, accounting for more than $558 billion dollars in bilateral trade on an annual basis. Right now, right now, more than 1.5 billion dollars a day crosses our border. From Brownsville all the way to San Diego. And let’s not forget Mexico ranks among the top three export markets for 31 of our 50 states. And let’s also not forget that since NAFTA, foreign direct investments in Mexico from the U.S. have grown rapidly. In fact, the U.S. now accounts for over 46 percent of all investments in Mexico. And Mexican companies invest over $52 billion on American soil.

“But why should we care. Why should a small business association in Washington care about this? And what does this mean to American small businesses? Well, I think that the people of the Rio Grande Valley know better than most, the bottom line is this: of the American companies that do engage in foreign trade, 98 percent of them are actually small companies not big corporations. And when you consider that it is the small businesses that create 70 percent of all new jobs, this is very much a critical issue for my association and it should be for all Americans. And that is why the USHCC is here.

“In terms of this state’s economy specifically, Texas exports approximately 93 billion dollars of goods to Mexico every single year. In fact, almost 40 percent of all Texas exports go directly to a buying partner in Mexico, supporting over one million American jobs right here in the Lone Star State. That being said, it doesn’t mean that we should turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to the very real concerns that exist between our two nations and that accompany this key relationship. Of course not. Addressing the trade deficit with Mexico, addressing border security, addressing immigration reform, and a host of other topics, from labor standards all the way to environmental stewardship is critically important. But we believe that it is appropriate to update and renegotiate NAFTA. After all, any piece of legislation that is over 25 years old should be updated. But all this talk of ripping up NAFTA and throwing it away, that will never happen. That is bombastic language and frankly it is counter-productive. We need an agreement that reflects the realities of the 21st Century. And at the USHCC, we propose that we upgrade from the North American Free Trade Agreement to the North American Fair-Trade Agreement, for our region and for the people of our country.

“For the last few months I have noticed we have been way too focused on the labels that divide us, labels like young and old, men and women, liberals and conservatives, immigrant and native born, white, black and even Hispanic. But that time is over. Now is time to stop being Democrats or Republicans, and it is time to go back to being Americans. Applause. And to get back to doing what we do best, driving businesses that are the very lifeblood of the greatest economy ever known to mankind. I hope that all of you will join us, that you will join us in helping make that happen right here in the Rio Grande Valley and wherever your travels and business takes you. In closing, please join us, let us all work together to defeat the climate of discord and division now more than ever. We must speak with one voice. An American voice. For unity, for prosperity. And I know that through collaboration, hard work, and entrepreneurship, that we can add our own little thread to that beautiful tapestry that is our country.

“Thank you for having me. I love the Valley and it is always good to be back home.”