Awards Gala spotlights Latinx impact on local economy: "We are here to make a true contribution."

Next Tuesday evening at the JW Marriott, The West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (HCCWM) will host its 2019 Awards Gala, honoring six Latinx individuals and businesses who have exemplified success and commitment to community. The more than 800 people attending the sold-out event will see more than awards and award winners; they will gain important insights into the huge, positive economic impacts that Latinx businesses make on the entire region.

“Right now, a lot of negativity is going around in reference to immigration. It’s so important for us to showcase the wonderful work that Hispanics are doing in our community,” says Anna Jose, program manager for the HCCWM Transformando program. “That’s one of the reasons the Chamber is taking the lead on this.”

“Media are coming, magazines who have never been here before,” adds Guillermo Cisneros, HCCWM executive director. “We will have a red carpet, amazing food, all of our financial partners and business owners. This is going to be a great event. Last year we broke record numbers with more than 600 attending. That’s 25 percent growth in one year. It’s exciting.”

When asked about the contributions that Latinx and other immigrants make to West Michigan, Cisneros is quick to reference data from the United States Census Bureau American Community Survey. In 2016, Kent County’s foreign-born residents contributed $3.3 billion to the area’s GDP. Of the $1.3 billion that these new Americans earned in 2016, $219.4 million went to federal taxes and $101.5 million went to state and local taxes. That left them an additional $943.7 million dollars in spending power, spending that helps to sustain the entire region’s economic prosperity. In addition, these local immigrants contributed $124.6 million to Social Security and $33.3 million to Medicare.

Cisneros notes that Latinx businesses not only create success for themselves, but also job opportunities for others.

“These business owners generate employment opportunities for many people within the community,” Cisneros says. “When they generate employment, we have more people with economic power.”

“For example, a couple of years ago, one of our business owners was barely making $100,000. This past year, they made more than $300,000,” Jose adds. “This gave them the opportunity to hire 10 more employees — 10 people that have stable employment because of the work that this business owner is doing in the community.”

The HCCWM will present awards in the following categories: Hispanic Business of the Year, Hispanic Businessperson of the Year, Young Professional of the Year, Most Promising Hispanic Business, Building Bridges, and Non-Profit Champion.

“We definitely look for individuals and businesses that have been in existence a few years and have showed success … that have a good reputation throughout the community,” Cisneros says. “This event is to celebrate the success of all of them and the impact that these Latino businesses have had in West Michigan.”

“We also want to identify individuals who are leaders in our community, who are showing up to different tables to have a voice. People that are into helping the Hispanic community,” Jose adds. “We are people that care about one another and we are people that care about our neighbors. We are not here to take anything away from anyone else. We are here to make a true contribution.”

Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor

Photos courtesy the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

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