(U.S. Rep. Will Hurd / Photo: AP)
Just one day after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and his colleagues unveiled their new initiative against over-burdensome regulations, business leaders from the Latino community met in the nation’s capital to express the need for exactly that kind of change.
“What you all are doing is incredible important, and your voice has to be heard in D.C.,” said Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), speaking at Wednesday’s Small Business Summit hosted by the nonpartisan Latino Coalition. “The only way we’re going to change this overly burdensome regulatory environment is hearing from folks like you and how it affects you.”
Regulation was at the forefront of the agenda, especially with the number of small business owners in attendance. But the summit was more than just a reproach against unreasonable business regulations. Featuring discussions and presentations from small business owners, health care professionals, technology experts, congressional representatives and a litany of other leaders both in and outside of the Latino community, the platform was a chance for various stakeholders across the nation to network and make their voices heard.
Latino Coalition Chairman Hector Barreto said the meeting could not have come at a better time.
“It’s kind of interesting how every two years, but especially every four years, people really start paying attention to the Latino community,” Barreto said, drawing laughter from the audience.
Indeed, as election season picks up, the sheer influence of the Latino community becomes even more evident, Barreto said. As the largest minority and fastest growing segment of small business growth in the nation, Latinos have at their disposal $1.5 trillion in purchasing power, not to mention their ever-increasing influence as voters.
As the largest minority and fastest growing segment of small business growth in the nation, Latinos have at their disposal $1.5 trillion in purchasing power
“But we’re not a monolithic community,” Barreto added, “and over the course of this summit, there won’t be any mistake about what we care about: the economy, education for our kids, and health care.”
Appropriately, each panel discussion, speech, question-and-answer session and luncheon served to hammer down those issues most of all. But the running theme remained focused on small businesses, notably how political candidates would be doing themselves a disservice not to tap into the powerful message of economic opportunity if they want to appeal to Hispanic voters.
As Barreto wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, the oft-discussed subject of immigration reform doesn’t even break into the top five issues of importance to Hispanic voters, despite what media outlets and politicians would have you think. Their top concerns are jobs and the economy.
“All this is missing from the presidential race,” Barreto wrote. “Why aren’t candidates competing to be the best small business advocate? And why aren’t any of them addressing the disturbing fact that fewer people want to start a business than ever before?”
As the years go by, these issues will only intensify. The Hispanic community is growing faster than ever. And with the fate of entire communities determined by their own ability to operate freely and smoothly in a business environment, the need for change in America’s regulatory practices will only grow more evident.
“What happens here at this summit is not going to stay here,” Barreto said. “We’re going to take this all around the country.”
Head over to the Latino Coalition to learn more about the Summit and the coalition’s plans for the future.
Evan Smith is a Staff Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @Evansmithreport.