Posted at 10:43 AM
Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to the Open for Business Agenda.
Guest blog post by George Laws Garcia, Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist, Minority Business Development Agency
As part of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) I work to engage Congressional, state and local officials to help create favorable conditions for minority businesses and entrepreneurs to grow and prosper. In this role I have the opportunity to support capacity development in Hispanic and all minority communities to build and grow our own businesses, create good jobs in our communities, provide needed goods and services in our domestic markets, and to utilize our cultural, linguistic and international knowledge as a competitive advantage to export globally.
Given the rapid growth of minority communities in the U.S. and the generational shift in America’s workforce which will soon see us becoming a majority minority nation, the need to support the growth of minority businesses and entrepreneurs has never been more important to keeping America Open for Business. I help shape America’s policy and legislative agenda toward minority businesses through strategic advocacy efforts that, not only raise awareness about the issues impacting minority business communities, but also increase understanding of the importance of minority business growth to America’s domestic and global economic competitiveness.
Every day I draw upon my personal, educational and professional background, as well as my community involvement when doing my work. Born and raised in Puerto Rico to a multicultural family, my parents were both service oriented people that worked in the legal and education sectors. Their influence helped me develop an awareness of a broad range of societal challenges, and from an early age I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to helping others and improving our society. I studied political science and international affairs at the University of Chicago and after graduating came to Washington, D.C. to figure out how to make good on my life’s mission.
A decade later I have now had the opportunity to work doing advocacy for a national Latino non-profit organization, I have worked for the Governor of Puerto Rico representing the U.S. territory’s interests before Congress and the Administration, and I’ve worked in the U.S. House of Representatives helping the Congressman from Puerto Rico craft policy and legislation to help the U.S. citizens that live there. During that time, I also earned a masters degree from the School of International Service at American University, which ironically means that most of my formal education has been in foreign policy, while most of my professional career has focused on domestic policy issues.
One of the most important influences in my personal development has been my involvement as a member of La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity Inc. Joining this Latino-based, multicultural Greek organization as an undergraduate helped me learn how to collaborate closely with individuals that reflect the full spectrum of the Latino community in America in terms of heritage, culture, socioeconomic backgrounds, language, political views and regions of the country. I learned that even though Latinos in America live in very different circumstances we have certain shared values and common experiences and challenges that allow us to identify with each other. Being a member of the fraternity reinforced my belief that it is not enough to utilize my education and opportunity to improve myself and my conditions.
The fraternity showed me that to enjoy a successful community where we can thrive along with our peers we have to give back to others and help pave the way for the next generation. Putting words to action was essential and through the organization we developed concrete opportunities to perform community service focusing in particular on providing guidance, mentorship and role models to Hispanic youth. As an alumnus within the fraternity I’ve continued being involved participating in a vibrant network of Hispanic professionals and families in the D.C. area. Together we’ve created a strong community and opened opportunities for both personal and professional growth and development.
Having seen up close the multitude of challenges facing the Latino community both in Puerto Rico and in the sates I’ve developed a keen awareness of the outstanding resourcefulness and resiliency of our communities. For me Hispanic Heritage month is important because it is an opportunity to share our individual and collective stories. Stories of challenges faced and many times overcome against incredible odds based in one way or another on hard work, determination, family support, and belief in the American dream. It is a reason to break barriers and increase connections within our community and with others who don’t know as much about us so that America can fully appreciate the multitude of contributions that we have made and continue making toward the advancement of our country.
As the importance of minority communities to America’s economic success becomes indispensable, I’m proud to be a Hispanic working in the DOC and MBDA to help keep the American dream alive and accessible for current and future generations across America.