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Latino leaders connect for mutual solutions
Group is making ‘valuable and tangible contributions’ to economy
Latino leaders
Courtesy photo Susana Salamun is the Latino Services Officer for Alpine Bank and acts as its strategic and administrative leader of Alpine Bank's ongoing efforts to serve the Hispanic and Latino populations in Colorado. She is pictured speaking with a group of influencers recently.

Latino leaders in the Roaring Fork Valley are coming together to tackle common issues, share information, promote Latino/Hispanic culture and serve as a resource to one another. 

“The goal is to connect with other Latino leaders in the community to network, share ideas, and create a positive environment to promote solutions that address the issues and needs of Latino individuals and businesses in the Roaring Fork Valley, and in Colorado,” says Susan Salamun, organizer of the Latino Leaders in Colorado, who also serves as the Latino Services Officer for Alpine Bank in Glenwood Springs.  

Indeed, the coalescence and visibility of the Latino leaders is perhaps more important than ever to debunk old stereotypes, and reinforce the real, valuable and tangible contributions that this group is making to the American economy. 

Latinos and Hispanics, who make up just over 18 percent of the U.S. population, are vital contributors to America’s economic growth. According to a study conducted at Stanford Business School in November 2018, “Latino-owned businesses [approximately 5 million] are growing in number and importance to the American economy. 

“Contributing more than $700 billion in sales to the economy annually, they are also an important source of employment as sole proprietors and as firms with employees on payroll. One in four new businesses, traditionally key sources of new jobs, is now Latino-owned. Quite simply, small business growth is tied to the fortunes of Latino-owned businesses.” 

These positive trends are true for the Roaring Fork Valley as they are for all of Colorado. In 2018, young Latinos launched several popular restaurants and cafes in the Mid-Valley that are bringing vitality to the Mid-Valley.   

According to research conducted by The Bell Policy Center last year, Latino/Hispanics comprise the largest share of Colorado’s minority population at 21.7 percent, and are estimated to increase to over one-third by 2050. Colorado’s minority population tends to be younger and Latino/Hispanics will comprise over 60 percent of the growth in our working-age population between 2017 and 2020, and each decade through 2050. [The Guide to Economic Mobility in Colorado, The Bell Policy Center, 2018] 

The force and vitality of the Latino community is precisely why it’s so important that Latinos come together to showcase successes, share experiences and address community issues. 

The power of the network lies in how well its members know each other, trust each other, gain from each other, and influence others, and that’s precisely why Latino leaders in the valley are starting to come together more regularly. 

“The idea is for this effort to develop organically, and launch with an achievable goal. We need to get to know each other, to understand our common needs, and how we can be a resource for each other and the community,” explains Salamun.  

She also serves as a board member of the Aspen Community Foundation, the Latino Chamber of Commerce in Boulder and the State of Colorado Minority Business Advisory Council. Susana, who lives in New Castle with her husband, was born and raised in Mexico and has lived on the Western Slope for seven years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.

Diverse businesses represented

The group currently includes Latino leaders working in a variety of non-governmental organizations, government and diverse business sectors, including finance, media, law, environment, real estate, health and education. These leaders are educated, entrepreneurial and focused on upward, economic mobility for all community members. 

The more connected the valley’s Latino leaders become, the greater interest and influence they will have to identify and solve common issues, to promote ideas, and secure seats on local public councils and private boards and chambers on which the Latino population has thus far been under-represented.  

The advent of institutions that advance Latino interests dovetails with efforts launched by the Town of Basalt which, according to its recently-approved Strategic Framework, will redouble efforts to engage Latino representatives as town council-members and on the many special-purpose committees that currently exist. 

The group, informally named Latino Leaders in Colorado, had its first meeting in August, and now plans to organize a gathering on the last Monday of every month. These networking meetings will rotate among breakfast, lunch and evenings in order to encourage greater attendance. The next meeting will be on Monday, Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. at Mi Casita Restaurant in Carbondale. 

For now, information on the group is being disseminated via a Facebook Group and an email list managed by Salamun. 

Social media can be useful, but it’s the direct and personal face-to-face interaction, and the valuable relationship, trust and influence that the Latino Leaders in Colorado could build over time, and with other Latino groups in Colorado, that’s exciting and positive for the Mid-Valley.