Latinos are the strongest drivers of the U.S. economy, according to a panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival earlier this summer. While they make up less than 20 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for 51 percent of home buying in 2012, and 86 percent of new small businesses between 2007 and 2012.

Sol Trujillo cites these figures regularly, and says the economic power of Latinos is largely misunderstood by politicians and the American public, as evidenced by how Latinos are demonized by some candidates and voters in this election year. Trujillo used to run US West, now CenturyLink, in Denver and served on the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. He spoke about Latinos in the U.S. economy as part of a panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival earlier this summer. Today he spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner as part of CPR's coverage of Latino voters in this election.

 

On how are Latinos driving the consumption side of our economy:

"Over the last decade, in the United States of America, over 51 percent of all new home mortgages taken out have been taken out by Latino families... It is not a niche, it is not a small number; it is a material number. And when you look at 51 percent of all home mortgages and you think about the multiplier effect of, for ever mortgage there had to be a home or a condo or whatever that had to be built.

"All the jobs created there, whether they be carpenters or mason workers or whatever it might be. When you think about the ecosystem of financing them, when you think about insuring them, when you think about furnishing them, it is a large, large impact in terms of the economy." 

On how corporations are responding to this growing consumer base: 

"You look at companies that are the more progressive ones. Take for example Wells Fargo; the CEO and the board there, they have Latinos on their board of directors. So they have a perspective. And one of the key things that I would say, that if you looked at a company that was about to go to India and open up that as a market: Would you just have the same people that have been involved in your governance as part of your governance, or would you try to enhance with people that have a perspective?"

On how Latino entrepreneurs face bigger hurdles: 

"Basically what we found there was that Latinos are the most prolific entrepreneurs in the U.S., which is kind of an unknown fact. And I use the word "fact" consciously. The second thing is that those business that were created by Latinos, they do not in total reach the same average size and volumes of a non-Latino owned business. The question is, why? Or in Spanish it be por que? The issue is, what is the hindrance there? Is there something there that is unique? And the answer is, we think so. And we're gathering more data in the next survey that will help us further answer that."

On shifting the political conversation with his co-founded non-profit Latino Donor Collaborative:

"(Henry Cisneros) and I are both are concerned about the language misleading the American public about how to grow our economy. Because of all of us, the one thing that is common among every group in the United States of America, is how do we grow opportunities for jobs, how do we grow opportunities for wages and income? My answer is always focus on where you can get growth. Focus on where you can stimulate more growth, and that's really the conversation that we're trying to steer it to, as opposed to what I would call ridiculous ideas of building walls."