Rep. Cardenas: GOP missing golden opportunity with Hispanics

Rep. Cardenas: GOP missing golden opportunity with Hispanics

Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-Callif.) and DCHCA President Maria Patricia Corrales.
California's 29th District Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-Callif.) and DCHCA President Maria Patricia Corrales. (Credit: Malcolm Barnes)

WASHINGTON, December 8, 2014 – It was on the eve of President Obama’s announcement of his executive order on immigration reform that Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) addressed the National Hispanic Construction Association (NHCA) at the National Press Club, touting the power of the Hispanic workforce. The occasion: NHCA’s announcement that they are opening a major regional chapter in California.

As a former business owner himself, now representing the largest state economy in the nation, Representative Cardenas reminded the group that, “Latinos have much to do with the growth of the economy. Seventy five out of 100 construction workers in California, both union and non-union, are now Latinos,” he said.

“Every business owner wants loyal, hard-working, honest workers. And we as Hispanics fit that bill,” he said.

“Our government needs to make sure that the rules and regulations require banks to provide access to capital, which is the #1 barrier to the growth of our businesses,” he also noted. “SBA needs to do a better job, but it’s going to take organizations like NHCA to get the word out.”

Mr. Cardenas made a compelling case for his argument by linking the success of the Latino community to the success of the American economy. “When the Hispanic community is prospering, the U. S. economy is prospering. It is not enough to just encourage, but it necessary to require banks to make loans,” he added. “We need to remove those barriers and allow small businesses to grow. With our growth in numbers when you hold Hispanics back you are holding back the entire economy.”

With his recent executive order, “The President is taking action to make sure that people are no longer living in the shadows,” he said. “People who are now living in the shadows will be unleashed by the millions and you are going to see the economy increase.”

NHCA New York area VP and Board member Alexis Peña implored his members to support President Obama’s and his own immigration reform efforts. “Republicans need to get on board, unless they will become and endangered species,” he asserted, in remarks addressed to the incoming GOP majority in Congress. “They need to revisit the Dream Act and remove the [current] treat[ment] of undocumented Americans living under the threat of deportation,” said Pena, who admitted that in spite of residing in ultra-liberal New York State, many of his Spanish-speaking neighbors are culturally conservative.

“A lot of Latinos are Republicans at heart, but when [Republicans] pass these draconian laws they alienate Hispanics. Let it be clear to the Republicans that we are listening,” Peña reminded the audience in his closing remarks.

Locally in the DC metro area, the dominant Hispanic-owned construction firm is Fort Myers Construction. The firm has captured the lion’s share of Department of Transportation (D-DOT) contracts in the District, winning an estimated 70% plus of the million dollar awards for street, sidewalk and road paving repairs in DC.

With a workforce of over 600 employees with 82% minorities of largely Hispanic and Black heritage, Fort Myer is particularly well known for its advocacy for and emphasis on workforce and small business development in this community.

According to Evelyn Ross, the Community Affairs officer who replaced At-Large City Councilwoman Anita Bonds at Fort Myers, the company also hosts monthly Small Business Roundtable meetings with the mission of strengthening the capabilities of small and disadvantaged businesses by mentoring and introductions to resources, contacts, and procurement opportunities.

Under Fort Myers’ leadership, the Business Roundtable recently supported the small business community’s “Where’s the Billion?” rally on the steps of the Wilson Building at the opening session of the DC City Council. The purpose of the rally was to bring awareness to the continuing lack of government spending and procurement involving small businesses. As a result of this and other community participation and activities, Fort Myer Construction was honored by the DC Chamber of Commerce as its 2013 Business of the Year.

Recently the DC Hispanic Contractor’s Association (DCHCA) created an alliance with the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) and CHOICE to create the Construction Alliance & Academy to train local members of the black and Hispanic community in the construction trades.

In a related matter, DCHCA President Maria Patricia Corrales testified for the third time before the DC Committee of the Whole in favor of bill B20-805 the District of Columbia Stadium Development Act.

“If this stadium were to be built, one of our members, Roubin & Janeiro, who own an asphalt plant in Southeast would bid on that part of the project,” she stated. Another member, Prince Construction, who does demolition and concrete foundations would bid on that part of the project. A third member who does cabling and IT infrastructure, Dynamic Concepts, would bid on that part of the contract.

“One more member, Keystone Plus, would probably bid on parts of the interiors and carpentry packages. My company, Capital Construction Enterprises, would be interested in the drywall and framing,” declared Ms. Corrales in support of her association’s strongest members.

Each of these companies are DC based Certified Business Enterprises (CBEs) attempting to break current business paradigms by positioning themselves and their membership to benefit from the new development that is taking place in their communities.

NEXT: Soccer stadium becomes a lightning rod for DC-area Hispanic contractors.

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