December 14, 2022 • By The UCI Paul Merage School of Business
In this episode of the Dean’s Thought Leadership Story series, Dean Ian Williamson sits down with Mr. Gary Acosta, an influential agent of the economy. They focus on the Latinx business community; Acosta shares his perspective and makes recommendations.
What makes Acosta an impactful figure and an ideal person for this conversation are his leadership and involvements in numerous initiatives. In addition to being an entrepreneur, public policy advocate, and investor, he is the co-founder of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) and L’ATTITUDE. NAHREP is the largest of its kind for Latinx business leaders in the country; L’ATTITUDE is the largest national conference for Latinx professionals. Additionally, he has founded companies with respect to mortgage, real estate, and technology. He has worked in both the public and private sector; examples are the Inaugural Advisory Board and Fortune 500 companies.
Being thus well-read about the economy, Acosta knows its habits—and avenues for growth. To the inquiry of economic expansion, he introduces what will be the focal point of the interview: the Latinx business community. Latinx workers, he asserts, make up the largest workforce in the U.S., purchase homes at above average rates, and are twice as likely as the average American to own a family-owned business. Simply put, the Latinx business community is an economic “powerhouse,” a term used time and time again by both interviewer and interviewee.
Notwithstanding, a history of socioeconomic disparities hinders said powerhouse; Acosta’s enterprises have responded to such hurdles in real time. The initial concern of NAHREP, when established twenty-two years ago, was to bring up the percentage of Latinx homeowners to that of the general population. Following the recessions of 2008 and 2012, which disproportionately devastated Latinx businesses, NAHREP changed its focus to educating influential professionals on the importance of diverse asset holdings, as fortitudes against future economic peril. And recently, cognizant of the fact that most Latinx businesses remain small, Acosta has created his own venture capital fund, under L’ATTITUDE, to fund and upscale start-ups and the like. Identifying the problem and responding to it: such is the approach that Acosta has taken and recommends other business leaders to pursue.
The upward trajectory of the Latinx business community remains far from fulfilled, and its outcome, no matter how promising, lies largely in the attitudes and approaches of current and future business leaders. Furthermore, he advises firms to build partnerships with Latinx business professionals founded on trust, an overruling factor of mutual success for both parties. “If [Latinos] trust you,” he adds, “they will do business with you and not only that, they’ll tell everybody they know, that they should be doing business with you.” To current students, he underscores the values of innovation and communication: “...people who have ideas, who believe in these ideas and are able to articulate those ideas well are the ones that are going to succeed.”
Now is the time to invest in Latinx community. The logic is simple, but pivotal: “...one of the biggest mysteries of capitalism—because capitalism is supposed to flow where the growth is—is, why isn’t capitalism flowing to the Latino community, because the data shows that that is where the growth is going to be for this country in the coming years.”