According to recent reports, the Latino economy is valued at 3.2 trillion dollars, up from $2.8 trillion in 2020. If Latinos were an independent country, their GDP would rank ahead of the UK, India, and France.
The growth of the Latino economy is because more Latinos are becoming entrepreneurs, starting businesses, and creating jobs. “The Latino community must take ownership of its future to ensure this growth continues,” says Jaime di Paulo, President & CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. IHCC’s mission is to cultivate knowledge, connections, and collaboration to effect transformational social change and achieve sustainable economic impact through entrepreneurship.
“You come in with an idea, and you walk out with the business (plan)…and start it on the right foot at no cost to you,” said di Paolo about the Illinois Small Business Development Center at IHCC.
di Paolo questions studies that boast about the U.S. Hispanic population’s economic prowess. “What does that mean,” he said. “Our communities are falling apart; they’re getting gentrified. There’s no influence of dollars coming into our communities because our businesses are not growing.” For example, he shared that 64% of Latino businesses in Chicago have less than ten employees. “From the get-go, they’re not growing; they’re not creating generational wealth.
“Our community needs to learn how to use other people’s money, said di Paolo about small business owners leveraging loans from banking institutions. “Usually a Latino, when they open a business, they put the life savings into the business. Other groups don’t; they ask for loans. They don’t jeopardize their future; their homes.”
IHCC is a member of the Illinois Latino Agenda (ILA), a coalition that advocates for the needs of Latinos as a collective voice true to Latino/a/x cultural values. di Paolo spoke about supporting the influx of newcomers, asylum seekers coming to Chicago. “You need to push the federal government to push those permits to work; so we can start developing the workforce we need,” he said.
Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, di Paolo came to Chicago 10 years ago. He was selected as President & CEO of the IHCC in January 2019. di Paolo believes that small businesses are the anchor, the heart of the community, “If the businesses grow, the community grows.” “I’d rather give my dollar to a Latino than anybody else,” said di Paolo about driving 10 miles to support a Latino-owned dry cleaning company.