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U.S. Hispanic Business Council CEO: Infrastructure bill is 'a generational type of investment'

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U.S. Hispanic Business Council President Javier Palomarez joins Yahoo Finance to discuss how Hispanic workers contribute to the American economy and the potential going forward.

Video Transcript

JARED BLIKRE: President Biden is set to sign the historic $1.2 trillion infrastructure package on Monday that will invest $550 billion in the United States on federal infrastructure projects, and this is going to affect nearly all facets of the American economy. Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the US Hispanic Business Council, joins us now. And, Javier, you recently wrote an op-ed arguing that this legislation will, quote, "unleash the power of the millions of Hispanic infrastructure workers and entrepreneurs in this country to deliver on the promise of the president's agenda." Can you just break it down? How is this bill going to affect the workers-- Hispanic workers of the US?

JAVIER PALOMAREZ: Well, first of all, thanks for having me, Jared. It's a real pleasure to be here. And yes, I mean, if you look at the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, it's going to invest some $1 trillion in fixing a variety of problems, from, you know, bridges to tunnels to highways to water supply systems, telecommunications infrastructure, and the list goes on.

It is-- first and foremost, it's a major investment, a generational type of investment in our infrastructure and the American economy. It is something that we are very happy to see happen. And I commend President Biden for, you know, seeing this thing through, sticking with it, getting across the finish line.

I commend also, obviously, the Democrats who stuck with him from the beginning, but especially, you know, those Republicans who backed this bill, you know, people in the House, like Adam Kinzinger from Illinois, Fitzpatrick from Pennsylvania. In the Senate, you saw, you know, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Mitt Romney from Utah. I think they illustrated that they can put party politics aside and do what's right for the American people.

This is a major investment in the betterment of our infrastructure. You know, we are the wealthiest nation in the world, Jared. And yet, we rank 13 when it comes to our infrastructure. There's no excuse for that. And this is a smart investment in the future of our country, and it is a boon and an opportunity for all American small business, but certainly for Hispanic-owned small businesses.

JARED BLIKRE: And we're talking about this affecting broad swaths of the labor market, not just unskilled labor-- unskilled labor, but skilled labor as well in a variety of sectors, including the financial sector. Can you just break down some of the numbers of how this is going to be affecting various industries, not just infrastructure pure play?

JAVIER PALOMAREZ: Sure. So yeah, I mean, we're now at the point where the real work begins, right? Here's where you begin to deliver on the promise of this bill. This is where the real work begins. And this is where America's Hispanic workforce, tens of millions strong, comes into play. Hispanic workers can be found across the infrastructure landscape.

And of course, some are pouring concrete, some are driving the 18-wheelers, some are designing bridges, some are putting up wind turbines. Others are installing cellular towers. But there are those that actually own the companies that are running the companies and putting together the deals and the financing to back and fund these projects.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently said that over the last few years, Hispanic-owned businesses grew by some 14%. And if you look a little further, the number of Hispanic-owned construction companies increased by 32%. And the number of Hispanic-owned companies and transportation and warehousing increased by 25%.

And then finally, the number of Hispanic-owned finance companies and insurance companies, the firms that would fund and underwrite these projects, those grew by 27%. So at the end of the day, you know, Hispanic-owned businesses are part of the backbone of the American economy. And we will be a cornerstone of the success and of the implementation of this infrastructure bill simply because we are so prevalent in this infrastructure landscape.

JARED BLIKRE: And can you talk about what your-- what your company, the US Hispanic Business Council, specifically, how are you allocating resources internally to kind of advocate for these businesses? Do you interface with them directly? Is there a mentorship? And just generally, can you talk about how you're leading the charge here?

JAVIER PALOMAREZ: You know, our job, as we see it, is to advocate on behalf of the 4.5 million Hispanic-owned firms in this country that collectively contribute over $750 billion to the American economy. And while we are very proud to advocate on behalf of businessmen and women who happen to be of Hispanic descent, we never forget that, first and foremost, we are American businesses. So every tax bill we pay, every job we create, every product we manufacture, and every service we provide goes to benefit the American economy.

And what we do is we interface with those scaled Hispanic companies-- in this case, those that are playing in this space. And in this op-ed that you referred to earlier, I mention three of them, and those three are, you know, in the West Coast or in Utah. In Salt Lake City, Utah, by way of example, is CTI construction. CTI is a first-generation Hispanic-owned company.

It is in Salt Lake City. It employs over 100 Americans. And they are a very unique specialty design and build construction company that counts amongst its clientele the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Coast Guard, and the list goes on.

If you go to Texas, in Dallas, another example is Peinado Construction. It was founded by Teddy Peinado, again, a first-generation Hispanic-owned firm. They will close this year with about a billion dollars in revenue. Again, they employ over 100 Americans, and they count amongst their clientele the likes of Toyota, the largest automobile manufacturer on the globe, also FedEx and Amazon.

And then you go to the West Coast and in Miami, MasTec. Now, in full transparency, I sit on the board of MasTec, but I can speak with a fair amount of knowledge about the capabilities and the background of this company. This is a second-generation-owned Hispanic-owned firm. It is traded in the New York Stock Exchange. We are now in the Fortune 500. We will close this year with revenues in excess of 7 and 1/2 billion dollars. We are in the infrastructure space.

MasTec installs pipeline, solar panels, wind turbines, and cellular towers, among other things, and it employs over 22,000 Americans. And so these three firms in different parts of the country are illustrative of the kinds of businesses that we advocate on behalf of and the kinds of businesses that will benefit from this infrastructure bill, because it allows us to continue to invest in our companies, continue to create good-paying American jobs, and continue to drive the American economy forward.

JARED BLIKRE: And we're going to have to leave it there, but we appreciate you stopping by and sharing your insights. Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the US Hispanic Business Council, thank you for joining us.