Hispanic Chamber: ‘It’s Our Time’

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Al Aguilar at the 86th annual San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Gala. Photo by Scott Ball.

Al Aguilar at the 86th annual San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Gala. Photo by Scott Ball.

Adolfo “Al” Aguilar, the 2015 chair of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC), and the co-founder of the Creative Civilization advertising, marketing and public relations agency, delivered his agenda-setting speech Friday night at the organization’s 86th annual gala. 

Aguilar was introduced by Javier Palomarez, the president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Gov. Greg Abbott was the evening’s keynote speaker at the event that drew 1,700 people to the Grand Hyatt ballroom in downtown San Antonio. Coverage of the evening and the governor’s speech can be found in a separate posting on the Rivard Report.

The complete text of Aguilar’s speech follows:

Good evening. Buenas noches. Thank you everyone. Thank you for your warm welcome.

And thank you, Javier, for that very kind introduction. I cannot think of anyone who has championed hispanic business in America in a bigger, more profound manner than Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the United Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. And thanks to you and the USHCC, the voice of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber is heard throughout this country.  Thank you for being here and we want to invite you to come back bringing the USHCC national convention to San Antonio. As you can see by the overwhelming support of our community that is here tonight, we will extend that support to the USHCC for a successful national convention right here in San Antonio, Texas. So, consider this our invitation.

Gracias, mi hermano.  Our community is proud to call you our friend.

I want to proudly welcome the Governor of the state of Texas, Greg Abbott to San Antonio. We are honored that you are here with us this evening and thank you for sharing your vision of how we will continue to prosper in this great state of Texas. You can count on us, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to be there with you in stride as we work for the good of all Texans to succeed. Let us all extend our best wishes and support to Governor Abbott and his family.

Governor, I know you’ve heard of the saying “mi casa es su casa” well, my wife Gisela and i would like to invite you and Cecilia to our home “dos suenos” for a dinner gathering with some close friends of ours so that we can continue to build our relationship and support you as our governor.

To Mayor Ivy Taylor, Judge Wolff and our distinguished elected officials, welcome and thank you for all you do to help build the vitality of our emerging entrepreneurial community.

To everyone in this room who has ever served on the board of the hispanic chamber of commerce, including a number of our past chairmen who are here with us this evening, thank you for leading us to where we are today America’s first hispanic chamber is also America’s best hispanic chamber.

Before I begin my remarks, I want to recognize and thank the leader who has given us her very best. Our 2014 chair, Patricia Pliego Stout. Patricia, you are a perfect role model as an entrepreneur and leader who demonstrates the vision, conviction and salesmanship to be a successful business person. I want to thank you for the opportunity to have been your partner throughout this year and I commit to you that the 2015 board of directors will continue to build on the momentum you have set. Let’s give her a great round of applause.

I also want to recognize my family. Mi familia. Beginning with the family’s Rock of Gibraltar, my father Adolfo Aguilar, Sr., who served the United States Postal Service for 36 years, providing for his family the education to move ahead and we owe him the deepest gratitude. And I dedicate tonight’s gala to my mother, Gloria Aguilar, who passed away five years ago, but whose drive and ambition that she instilled in her children lives on tonight on this stage with me.

And my sisters Arlene and Evelynn, their spouses and children, my aunt Dora and cousins Tom and Arthur, thank you for the endless support and love over the years. Can the Aguilar family please stand.

And I want to introduce my Girard family. If you ever want to know the meaning of what a family should stand for and believe in, it is the Girard family. Beginning with my father-in-law and mother-in-law, Joe Girard. And Eva Girard. And my wonderful brothers and sisters in-law, bobby and Iris, Ferdinand and Laura, Tim and Eva, JJ and Cinda and their amazing children. Can the Girard family please stand and be recognized?

I also want to recognize our staff at Creative Civilization, some of who are with us this evening. These are creative, motivated, talented young men and women who make San Antonio and its brands look good and succeed. Creative Civilization, please stand and be recognized.

Finally, I ask you to join me in recognizing the love of my life. A woman who I have admired ever since we met, when I was at central catholic high school and she was across the street at providence.  Everyone who knows her admires her. Her intelligence. Her integrity. Her beauty. She is also my business partner, as president of Creative Civilization. I am one lucky guy. One very grateful guy to have such a great woman in my life. Gisela, please stand and be recognized.

So here we are: Jan. 31, 2015. It is another great day in San Antonio, Texas.

It’s our time. It’s our time for our city. For our Hispanic Chamber. For our small businesses.

The theme of tonight’s event is much more than a theme for a gala. It’s much more than the iconic pop culture and music of an era back in the ’60s known as the mad men era. It is a proclamation of who we are, where we have been and where we are going.

In many ways we have arrived. And in many ways we are getting there. Our balance of achievements and bold aspirations drive us.

50 years ago where were we as a community? There were no women mayors. No Hispanic mayors. We certainly weren’t recognized as a major metropolis and one of America’s fastest growing cities. There were no Hispanic advertising mad men or mad women. Quite frankly, we were not invited to the party. But today, tonight, we are the party. It’s our time.


So tonight, enjoy the music and pop culture of that bygone era as a reminder of how far we have come and as an inspiration of where we are going. The vision, ideals and instruments of change that will propel greater levels of success for our city. Our Hispanic Chamber. Our small businesses.

There is a term, a phrase that I think best describes the period we are living in today in San Antonio. I hear people describe it as transformative growth. Look around us. We are transforming in every way.  From health care, technology, education, transportation, energy, the arts, entrepreneurship, and on and on.

It’s our time for our city. And you know the country, the world is taking notice. Take a look at these rankings.

San Antonio ranks #2 for metro areas with the most economic momentum, according to newsgeography.

San Antonio ranks #4 in next big boom towns in the U.S., according to Forbes.


And this one is one of my favorites.

Get this: San Antonio ranks #2 for 10 surprisingly hot markets for Millennials. That’s right. Millennials in san Antonio. According to Forbes.

Indeed, it’s our time.

So what does all of that mean? It means we are poised to continue on this upward trajectory of growth and prosperity if we continue to set high goals and expectations in 2015 and beyond. In spanish we use the term ganas. Desire. The hispanic chamber of commerce has ganas.

Muchas ganas.

It’s also our time for our Hispanic Chamber.

In 2014, the san Antonio hispanic chamber of commerce became the first hispanic chamber in the U.S. To achieve five-star accreditation.

Today the Hispanic Chamber enjoys nearly 1,200 member organizations and individuals from diverse backgrounds and diverse industries. The Hispanic Chamber is a chamber for all. Big business, small business. Northside. Southside. Eastside. Westside.  It is a mainstream chamber relevant to everyone who cares about business in san Antonio.

And the Hispanic Chamber is the leading the voice of small business advocacy in South Texas.

Which leads me to this: it’s our time for our small businesses. And small business is the focus of the innovative ideas and determined work of your 2015 Hispanic Chamber board of directors. And here’s why.

San Antonio’s small business sector is the economic engine that fuels San Antonio’s economy.

The economic engine.

The 40,000 small businesses employ 80% of the city’s workforce. Let’s think about that for a moment and put that into perspective. That means that 80% of all of the purchases of goods and services in our community. Be it groceries, automobiles, homes, clothing, healthcare, Spurs tickets and on and on, come from households whose family members are employed by one of those 40,000 small businesses.


So the interconnectivity of small businesses fueling big business is inseparable.  It is vital. It is the lifeblood of our economy.

So herein lies our challenge. Less than 2%, or 1,000 of those 40,000 small businesses, generate more than $1 million dollars in annual sales revenue. Just 1,000. That’s not good enough and we are going to do something about that. Let’s begin with a goal.

Let’s call that group the 1,000 club. Kind of like our version of the fortune 500.

And our goal will be to stimulate business opportunities to create the 5,000 club. Or 5,000 small businesses generating more than $1 million dollars in annual sales revenue. Is it possible? How long will it take?

Let me begin with this important observation and premise. San Antonio’s emerging small business sector offers quality products and services in diverse categories. The key word is quality. Today’s generation of entrepreneurs are better educated, sophisticated and ambitious to compete at the highest level. From technology, manufacturing, distribution, marketing and on and on.

We should do business with our small businesses not because we are trying to achieve a certain quota, but because they offer quality products and services right here in our own backyard.

So who are they? Who is the face of San Antonio’s emerging entrepreneurial community? Let’s meet some of them right now.

Indeed. It’s our time.

I would like to ask the eight young business men and women featured in our video to please stand.

Now I would like to ask every one here who is representing, or is associated with a small business to please stand.

Thank you.

Let’s achieve our goal of the 5,000 club. And beyond. Thank you.

And here’s another goal. Imagine if every one of the 40,000 small businesses added one new employee in 2015. We will have created 40,000 new jobs in our community. That’s the kind of impact that small business can have on our economy.


It’s time to refuel San Antonio’s economic engine. Our emerging entrepreneurial community. We can do it with what we call instruments of change.

We call this focus of growing the economic engine of San Antonio’s small business – refuel SA.

And the instruments of change are founded on five key principles: connectivity, communication, collaboration, commitment and confidence.

Let’s begin with connectivity.

We will be conducting the biggest business matchmaking event ever organized in San Antonio in the fall of 2015 called “Business Connect”. Here hundreds of small businesses, big business and public sector agencies will come together in an organized exchange to stimulate new business relationships and contracts. This is an “H2H” event human to human contact. And it will be followed by the Business Connect portal, a 24/7 – 365 days a year tool, that will keep the process going non-stop. We have already partnered with a San Antonio based firm that specializes in this for companies and organizations all over the world – my business matches. I have seen them in action, as I participated in an event they organized at AT&T headquarters in Dallas last fall. We look forward to inviting you to this important groundbreaking business growth opportunity.


In addition, we are introducing a series of industry specific forums throughout the year like the healthcare industry and creative industry where companies and individuals in their respective industries will gather to exchange information, dialogue and build  business opportunities.

In terms of communication, i am happy to announce the launch of the “small business of the week” e-blast that will go to a database of thousands of recipients each week that will introduce and profile individual small businesses and the quality product and service offerings.

We will also be searching and sending information of upcoming request for proposals or RFPs’ to our small businesses alerting them of these opportunities.

And these efforts will be supported with a small business focused adverting, public relations and social media campaign.

And  collaboration will be key. The hispanic chamber is actively working with organizations such as the San Antonio chamber of commerce, Associación de Empresarios Mexicanos, San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, Café Commerce, HACU and numerous others. A perfect example is the collaboration and partnership with my esteemed friend Henry Cisneros, chairman of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the chamber’s President, Richard Perez, along with Eduardo Bravo and Roberto Espinosa of the AEM, where we have recently agreed to be partners for the development and execution of the “Business Connect” matchmaking event that I described in my earlier remarks

And I also want to take this opportunity to thank Henry Cisneros for your leadership in helping attract an NFL team to San Antonio and for inviting me to be a part of the group that travelled to Oakland to present San Antonio in a manner that makes our city a very viable choice for our very own NFL team.

We all know and are very proud of how the Spurs have demonstrated to the world that it’s our time in San Antonio with their five NBA championships.  I believe that the support that our Spurs receive demonstrates that our city is ready for the NFL.

It’s our time.

Another collaborative effort I am excited to announce this evening is the establishment of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce chairman’s council. This council will be comprised of those who have served as chairman of the hispanic chamber and whose wisdom and guidance will continue to help our organization and community in the future, Andrade. Briseño. Guerra. Romo. Aldrete. Reyes. Sosa. Torralva, Lomeli, Mendoza, Rodriguez, Cisneros and many others who are some of the most visionary and respected leaders in our community. We will ask the chairman’s council to lead one or maybe two major initiatives each year in a way that perhaps only they can. I would like to ask all of those who have served as chairman of the Hispanic Chamber to please stand and be recognized. Ladies and gentlemen the chairman’s council.

Thank you for your continuing service to our community.

When it comes to commitment, there are a couple of ideas that will help us to ensure that we are focused on meeting our goals.

First, is the continuation of a new instrument that was introduced in 2014 by our immediate past chairman Patricia Stout and her board, which is the establishment of the procurement score card. The score card form is sent to numerous public agency organizations and will expand to include the private sector asking for a response to purchasing contract activity with small, minority and women owned businesses.

The scorecard is an opportunity to celebrate those who are doing a great job and encourage others to enhance their efforts in this area.

That positive recognition will come in the form of the Hispanic Chamber tops awards. Each year the top three public and private sector performers will be  recognized for their leadership efforts in building business relationships with small business.

And finally there is confidence. Confidence is all about the attitude we will take forward in our quest for excellence for our city. For our Hispanic Chamber. For our small businesses.

What do we see? A glass that’s half full or half empty? If you see a glass that’s half full then you see progress. Progress for San Antonio.

I would like to introduce a new idea this evening about progress.

This symbol and this phrase, Pro SA, stands for progress San Antonio. And you see the Hispanic Chamber icon of the eagle in the glass because the Hispanic Chamber will be leading this Pro SA movement.

There are three simple things we ask you to consider if you are Pro SA: speak up, spread the word, and support ideas.

Support ideas that will bring progress to San Antonio. Be it small business. Education.

Transportation, healthcare. All of the things that are important to our future.

This is designed to be a forum for all of our community to speak up and you can begin tonight by going to the Pro SA website, www.weareprosa.com.



In closing, I just want to say what a privilege and honor it is for me to serve as your chairman of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2015.

In 2028, just 13 short years from now, America’s first Hispanic Chamber, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

How will our business community and economy benefit from what we accomplish during our time?

The people in this room, our city, our chamber, our small businesses through the ideas and instruments of change we have shared tonight will determine that.

Indeed it is our time.

Thank you very much.

*Featured/top image: Al Aguilar at the 86th annual San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Gala. Photo by Scott Ball.

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One thought on “Hispanic Chamber: ‘It’s Our Time’

  1. A wonderful evening punctuated by an inspiring speech celebrating the work spirit of San Antonio.

    A future of vision, affirmation and perseverance expressed by the newest leader, Al Aguilar, at the helm of a powerful labor force.

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