By Ryan Cornell
WOODSTOCK -- The Society of American and Latino Entrepreneurs (SALE) held its inaugural meeting in Woodstock on Saturday to discuss its mission and festival scheduled on Oct. 26.
Twenty entrepreneurs attended the luncheon, including the president and editor of La Voz Latina newspaper, the owner of WSVG radio and representatives from City National Bank, State Farm insurance, Costco and the Harrisonburg, Winchester, Strasburg and Shenandoah County chambers of commerce.
SALE leader and keynote speaker Jorge Gutierrez said the luncheon served as a "starting point" for the bridge organization, which was first conceived about two months ago.
"This was an awareness meeting about the society, to get the right people informed and get their feedback," Gutierrez said, following his presentation. "We talked about who we are, why we're doing this, what we're doing and how we're doing it."
Some of the group's main priorities are to resolve the common problems Latino business owners face and promote their relationships within the community.
A lot of Latinos are hesitant about using banks for many different reasons, Gutierrez said, including the phenomenal fees associated with wiring money back to their families. He said the society could explain the banking system in detail and the advantages it offers to these owners.
The society's formation comes at a time when the regional Hispanic population continues to grow. According to a 2012 United States Census Bureau estimate, Hispanics make up 16.1 percent of the Winchester population. The same source states that in 2007, 2.8 percent of Shenandoah County firms were owned by Hispanics.
"It's an agricultural area and it's close to a metropolitan area," Gutierrez said, pointing to reasons for the growth. "There's a lot of land available here."
Gutierrez said there are plans for SALE to partner with regional chambers and headquarter in Woodstock. "It makes a lot of sense geographically," he said. "It's the central focal point for Winchester and Harrisonburg citizens."
Plans also were discussed at the meeting for its heritage festival, which will be held Oct. 26 at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds. Gutierrez said the festival will feature live music performed by mariachi bands on stage, authentic Spanish food and cultural activities such as calf-roping.
The next meeting for SALE will be held in Woodstock in August. Contact Jorge@bmocgroup.com for more information.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org