New initiative aimed at making Milwaukee a top 10 Hispanic community


Several of Milwaukee’s prominent Hispanic business and community leaders gathered Monday to launch an effort to improve economic opportunities and representation among Latinos in the region.

The Hispanic Collaborative, which was established with a grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and is based out of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s offices, involves more than 150 organizations and individuals.

Leaders said the collaborative will convene community working groups to target three key areas: addressing high rates of poverty by finding strategies to move Hispanics to higher-paying and higher-skilled positions; increasing the number of Hispanic-owned businesses by linking them to the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem; and increasing Hispanic civic participation through voting, public service and advocacy.

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Nancy Hernandez, former president and founder of ABRAZO Multicultural Marketing and Communication, is leading the collaborative. Hernandez noted that, over the past 25 years, 100 percent of Milwaukee’s population growth and job growth has come solely from the growth of the Hispanic community.

“This is why the inclusive economic prosperity work of the Hispanic Collaborative, why the investment now in this initiative is needed in order for all of us to reach our regional economic growth goals,” Hernandez said. “Hispanics are our future workers, consumers and innovators, and ensuring that they are in the best possible position to contribute to growth is an important part of the overall health and vibrancy of our community.”

Rolando Rodriguez, president and CEO for Marcus Theatres, is chairman of the board of the Hispanic Collaborative

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“As a CEO, huge believer in diversity and inclusion for all, and a proud Cuban-American, I can tell you that the age of our Latinos – specifically their youth — in relation to other demographic groups in the region means they are the most fertile ground for workers, innovators, consumers and producers,” Rodriguez said. “This is a group our region needs to better understand as our overall prosperity will be heavily influenced by Latinos’ access to opportunities and their upward mobility.”

Rather than duplicating the work of other service providers, Hernandez said, the collaborative will “serve as a resource and relationship hub for businesses, community-based organizations, non-profits and government entities” to help align strategies.

The new initiative is more than two years in the making, prompted by a GMF-commissioned study in 2016 that examined the impact of Milwaukee’s Latino community. That study later led to the creation of a “Hispanic well-being index,” which ranked Milwaukee 39th among the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas on measures such as education, prosperity and health.

The Hispanic Collaborative goal is for the city to become one of the nation’s top 10 Hispanic communities, based on the index.

Other leaders involved in the effort include Cristy Garcia Thomas of Advocate Aurora, Marc Andraca of Johnson Controls, Austin Ramirez of HUSCO, Jose Olivieri of Michael Best, Ivan Gamboa of Tri City, Griselda Aldrete of Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee, and Geno Valdes of Maglio Companies.

Tim Sheehy, president of the MMAC, said Milwaukee can’t achieve its potential without initiatives like the Hispanic Collaborative that address disparities in the community.

“It’s our pleasure and our honor to partner with the Hispanic Collaborative,” Sheehy said. “And from MMAC to the Hispanic Collaborative, si se puede.”

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