Mercer Chamber launches Latino council to meet rising demand
Michael Cano's parents came to the United States from Spain and Peru, but unless you're discussing heritage, it would be difficult to tell he was a second-generation American. For Cano and other Hispanic business owners, building business relationships based in cultural commonalities is a rare opportunity. That's why Cano, chair of the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce's board, is leading a new Latino business council called La Liga.
Cano, president of Cano Wealth Strategies LLC, and Jose Hernandez, CEO of the YWCA of Trenton, co-chair La Liga — Spanish for "The League" — which is hosting its first event tonight at Fernando's Grille, in Hightstown.
"They came here trying to provide their family the American Dream. I've had the opportunity to work towards that and make a better life for myself," Cano said of his parents. "The thinking behind launching (La Liga) is that I'm not the only one who has had this opportunity, and I also realize that there are a lot of other Hispanic business owners or professionals that are working out there, but they rarely get together in a business environment where they can actually network and exchange business ideas or referrals."
Rosa Rosado and her husband are McDonald's franchisees, operating four restaurants in the Philadelphia area. Rosado founded the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Mercer County and understands the need for the area's growing Latino business community to have the support of the regional chamber.
Rosado said La Liga's mission fits well with the work she and her husband did with the Latino chamber, in creating an organization "to assist Latino businesses in all aspects that we can, and be able to be a resource for them, a support for them and at the same time be culturally sensitive to them."
The regional group "will be a great asset to any business, but especially Latino businesses because they have access to all the resources the regional chamber has to offer — but at the same time, we will be able to incorporate additional things, such as workshops, and cater to them," Rosado added.
Cano said 45 people are registered for tonight's event, but he expects up to 70 people to attend. He added that he hopes to build a familiarity among the county's business owners, and partner with the other chapters of the regional chamber to expand awareness of the Hispanic business community.
According to a statement from the Mercer Regional Chamber, in 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the number of Latino-owned businesses in the United States increased by 43.7 percent, to 2.3 million, more than twice the national rate of 18.0 percent between 2002 and 2007. New Jersey saw a 37.2 percent increase in the number of Latino-owned businesses.