U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Remarks at Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

On the eve of Hispanic Heritage Month, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) today, conveying the importance of the Latino community to the economic future of the United States.

Secretary Pritzker lauded the CHCI for its work and emphasized the remarkable growth of Hispanic-owned businesses over the course of America’s economic recovery. In recent years, the number of businesses launched by Latino entrepreneurs has jumped by 44 percent and employment by Hispanic-owned firms has increased at nearly double the rate of non-minority businesses.

Secretary Pritzker also reaffirmed the Commerce Department’s commitment to helping Latino entrepreneurs overcome barriers they face in fast-growing fields like information technology and advanced manufacturing. For example, the Minority Business Development Agency’s newly-created Inclusive Innovation Initiative (I-3) aims to increase transfers of federally-developed technology to minority-owned enterprises, enabling more Latino entrepreneurs to innovate and compete in the 21st century.

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good morning. It’s great to be here with so many students, members of Congress, and business leaders, especially as we prepare to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Let me first thank Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez for that kind introduction. I also want to recognize Congresswoman Linda Sanchez for her outstanding leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

This organization commands enormous respect across the Department of Commerce and the entire Obama Administration. Your internships and fellowships prepare young Latino leaders to succeed in public policy, business, and other fields. Your scholarships open doors of opportunity for students of all ages. And your policy summits elevate the debate around issues that matter to Hispanic Americans and to all Americans – from cybersecurity to immigration reform to STEM education. 

As Latino leaders, you are American leaders. Your values – of hard work and responsibility, of family and community, of equality and respect – are American values.

The Latino community is one of the strongest threads in the fabric of America. Today, 55 million Hispanics live, work, and raise families in our communities. By 2060, that number will grow to 119 million – nearly a third of the entire population of the United States. Today, I want to discuss the Latino community’s incredible contributions to our economy, and the Commerce Department’s commitment to being your partner as you drive our country’s future economic success.

Let’s put the last seven years in perspective. Latino-owned businesses played an extraordinary role in our economic recovery. The number of Hispanic-owned firms across our country grew from 2.3 million in 2007 to an estimated 4.1 million today, with revenues nearly doubling from $350 billion to $661 billion.

In recent years, the number of businesses launched by Latino entrepreneurs has jumped by 44 percent – outpacing every other demographic group in America. Employment by Hispanic-owned firms has increased at nearly double the rate of non-minority businesses. And spending by Latino consumers has grown from a trillion dollars in 2010 to an estimated $1.5 trillion today. Put simply: the success of Hispanic Americans is inextricably linked to the success of our nation.

Now we must build on our recent gains. To achieve our shared hopes for long-term growth and prosperity, we must ensure that more Hispanic Americans – and all Americans – have the opportunity to succeed.

Innovation and entrepreneurship have always driven America’s economy. Our Latino community upholds this tradition, with the number of Hispanic entrepreneurs tripling in the last two decades. At Commerce, our mission is to create the conditions that enable all Americans to take risks, start businesses, and drive innovation. Government cannot create companies. What we can do is be your partner, providing you with resources that promote your success throughout the business lifecycle.

Let me share with you how two Commerce agencies helped a Mexican immigrant and entrepreneur grow his business and create jobs.

Victor Quinones is the founder of Concord Supply, a manufacturing firm in San Antonio specializing in steel packaging. When Victor invented new methods to better protect steel shipments, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued him six patents - helping establish Concord Supply as an industry innovator.  And when he created a new technology for extracting oil from water, he contacted our Minority Business Development Agency for assistance exporting his product. Our team connected Victor to investors. And eventually, Concord won a $50 million contract in Mexico - supporting more than 100 American jobs.

Victor’s story – of an inventor who became an exporter, and an exporter who became a job creator – is a story we want to see replicated across America. But too often, minority entrepreneurs face unique challenges. Our job at Commerce is to break down those barriers and help more Americans compete.

Our Minority Business Development Agency, or MBDA, is the federal government’s only office focused solely on helping minority-owned enterprises succeed in the 21st century.

Consider a study from the Kapor Center for Social Impact, which found that Latinos comprise seven percent of America’s high-tech workforce, but own just one percent of our high-tech firms. To reduce this disparity, I am excited about a new effort underway at MBDA called the Inclusive Innovation Initiative – or I-3 for short. Through outreach and education, our team will plug more minority-owned enterprises into one of America’s greatest innovation pipelines: our federal research labs. By bringing more diversity into our labs, I-3 aims to increase transfers of federally-developed technology to minority-owned enterprises.

We want to see more Latino entrepreneurs bring innovation out of the lab and into the marketplace, especially in fields like advanced manufacturing and information technology. With so many bright young people here today, I suspect that we may have some future entrepreneurs among us. Sitting in this audience may be the next Victor Quinones. Or perhaps the next Jose Andres, who is transforming the restaurant industry and how we think about food policy. Or maybe the next Nina Vaca, an immigrant from Ecuador who now serves as CEO of Pinnacle Group - the fastest-growing woman-led business in America.

Whatever path you take, we at the Commerce Department want to be your partner, helping you grow America’s economy for decades to come.  

I want to close on a personal note.

As some of you may know, I have been incredibly blessed in my life. But I never forget that my grandfather, a legendary businessman in Chicago, was the son of Jewish immigrants who fled persecution and arrived here with nothing.

As we talk about the aspirations of the next generation, we do not just speak of the people in this room. I am referring to the two million DREAMers across our nation: young people who may lack citizenship on paper but who are members of our communities and students in our schools. They inspire us all with their incredible potential and profound love of country.

To support their extraordinary cause, it was important to me that our family foundation establish a scholarship that provides financial support to undocumented, college-bound students in Chicago. So far, the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation has helped more than 130 DREAMers pursue their dreams.

Supporting these young men and women in pursuit of their degrees fills me with pride, because America has always been shaped by the generations of people who came to our shores in search of opportunity and must always remain a nation strengthened by our collective diversity. 

Looking around this room, I see that opportunity. I see that diversity. And I know that our nation is the better for it. Thank you for being here, for all that you are doing, and for the opportunity to speak with you today. 

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Last updated: 2017-10-19 14:56

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