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Are young Latinos the key to a ‘new’ American economy? These leaders say yes

Rene Rodriguez

Sol Trujillo remembers the signs that adorned the entrances of buildings when he was growing up in his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming, in the 1950s.

“The signs said ‘No dogs, cats, Mexicans or N------,’ ” Trujillo said. “My father used to tell me not to pay attention, because we were of Spanish descent. My family has lived in this country for 500 years, starting when the Spanish colonized Santa Fe, New Mexico. My parents married young and moved to Wyoming after the war to work for the Union Pacific Railroad. So even though there weren’t many Latinos in Wyoming, we grew up as a very proud family.”

Things have changed a lot since then. Today, Trujillo, 68, is the first U.S.-born Hispanic CEO of a Fortune 200 company — U.S. West, now part of AT&T. Previously he held the top spot at the Australian telecommunication giant Telstra and the France-based digital service provider Orange SA, and has served on the boards of Target, Bank of America, Western Union and Pepsi.

He also served as a trade policy advisor for the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

Now Trujillo — who earned his master’s degree at the University of Wyoming in one year while holding down three jobs — wants to share his experience and advice with the world. L’ATTITUDE, the third edition of the national business conference Trujillo co-founded with Gary Acosta, the CEO of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), will be held Sept. 24-27 in San Diego.

The conference brings an A-list roster of CEOs and leaders from diverse fields — banking, financing, education, entertainment, tourism and technology — to exchange ideas and discussions on the best way to attract and serve the burgeoning young Latino population born in the U.S.

Going virtual

Although the event is usually held in San Diego, this year’s conference will be entirely virtual. All panels and discussions will be broadcast live as well as recorded for on-demand sessions. Confirmed attendees include Dow Jones CEO Almar Latour, Walmart CEO and President John Furner, Black Rock CEO and President Larry Fink and Marriott International CEO and President Arne Sorenson. Singer/entrepreneurs Pitbull and Emilio Estefan will be repping Miami.

This year’s theme: The New Mainstream Economy, a term Trujillo coined in 2017 to describe the growing contributions by U.S. Latinos as consumers, entrepreneurs and workers — valued at a whopping $8.3 trillion.

“To me, the main difference between 20th century and 21st century America can be defined by what I call ‘The Two Ds,’” Trujillo said. “The first D is digitization. I’ve been in the technology field and introduced digitization in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I’m truly a digital native and now, almost all Americans are now digital because everyone is using mobile devices and communicating.

“The second D is the one people talk about a lot but not in an economic sense, and that is demographics,” he said. “America has tended to be defined by one demographic in particular, the Anglo-American. But their birth rate dropped dramatically with the Baby Boomer generation, and they are reaching 65 at the rate of 400,000 a month.

L’ATTITUDE co-founder Sol Trujillo in a photograph taken during the 2018 event.
L’ATTITUDE co-founder Sol Trujillo in a photograph taken during the 2018 event.

“At the same time, the native-born Latino cohort, which is about two-thirds of the overall Latino demographic in the U.S., has an average of 19. We’re going to be looking for growth from this cohort for the next three decades.”

According to the 2019 U.S. Latino GDP Project prepared by the Latino Donor Collaborative, if the U.S. Latino GDP were considered an independent economy, it would rank as the eighth largest in the world, ahead of Brazil and Russia. It is also growing 28% faster than the broader American economy, according to the report.

The L’ATTITUDE conference will focus on how companies can reach and harness that lucrative demographic. But the conference will also highlight the importance of employing those U.S.-born Latinos, as well as managing wealth, Latina entrepreneurship and the housing market.

“Nike is a very inclusive brand and sport is a very inclusive and diverse phenomenon,” said John Donahoe, president and CEO of Nike, who will participate in a fireside chat during the conference. “We have to remain relevant to youth who set the culture. LatinX is one of the fastest growing segments in the population, and supporting them helps us to keep our brand fresh and vibrant and exclusive.”

The Spider-Man factor

The conference will also focus on the importance of hiring U.S. Latinos in positions of power, because they are the best way to reach that sought-after demographic. For example, the Cuban-American Miami native Phil Lord, who co-directed the Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” with Chris Miller, intentionally left snippets of Spanish dialogue in the movie without subtitles because he grew up in a bilingual household in a bilingual city, and the real world does not use subtitles.

“We need to produce product that will attract audiences and do business and increase our penetration of the market,” said Tony Vinciquerra, CEO of Sony Pictures, which distributed the film. “The way to do that is to have people who are writing the scripts and working in front of and behind the camera who are representative of the marketplace.”



Another fireside chat with musicians Emilio Estefan and Pitbull will delve into their musical careers as well as their multiple business endeavors in fields other than recording.

“There are a lot of people in music that have restaurants and a business company,” Estefan said. “L’ATTITUDE is a tribute to the American dream. It’s to show the world how lucky we are that we are part of the mainstream economy and also spread the right information about immigrants. I’ve done 28 movies. I worked on “Top Gun” and “Pocahontas” and “The Little Mermaid.” I did events in the White House for six presidents. I worked for three Olympics. People need to know that. The world is becoming more and more about diversity. We are blessed to have this opportunity.”

The 2020 L’ATTITUDE conference runs Sept. 24-27, 2020. A full access pass to all events costs $149. Group access passes (good for up to 10 people) cost $129 per person. Single-track passes (entertainment, business, politics or capital) cost $49. For a complete schedule of events, click here or visit www.lattitude.net