Written by Leo Munoz
Each year around this time―Hispanic Heritage Month―we collectively celebrate the economic, cultural, and social contributions of the Latin American community to our nation. We also honor the hard work of past generations who have provided more opportunities for today’s Latino community.
As a diverse community, where Latinos make up more than half – 54% – of the nearly 1.3 million residents of Fresno, Madera and Kings counties and 65% of the population of Tulare County, we unite to help build a future where there are no barriers to success. At Bank of America, we strive to do our part to create financial equity and help build wealth in Fresno’s Latino communities.
We do this because as the Latin American population grows, so does its impact on our economy. The 2022 Metropolitan GDP Report, funded by Bank of America and released earlier this month, found the state’s Latino GDP was $706.6 billion in 2018, more than total economic output. of the State of Ohio. The report found that this incredible growth was fueled by notable factors, including the state’s Latino workforce growing nearly seven times faster than the non-Latino population; and the number of Latinos with at least a bachelor’s degree grew at a rate 2.5 times faster than non-Latinos between 2010 and 2018.
Invest in business
Investing in Latin American wealth means supporting entrepreneurs so they are set to succeed. Early-stage funding is critical to growing a new business, especially when Latino entrepreneurs still face gaps in financial literacy, business education, capital, and networking opportunities. For example, according to data from Crunchbase, startups founded by Latinos accounted for just 2.1% of venture capital investments in the United States last year. It is unjustifiable.
As part of our commitment to advancing racial equality and economic opportunity in historically disadvantaged communities, we have so far committed $350 million to minority and women-led venture capital funds and to those who invest in businesses run by minorities and women. Of the funds we have in our portfolio, one in four is led by Latino managers, providing capital that will help entrepreneurs and small business owners grow their business, create jobs and improve financial stability.
Here in Fresno/Visalia, Bank of America invested earlier this year in the new BW Capital Fund, launched by Fresno-based Bitwise Industries, which will invest in minority tech founders throughout Central California.
Create career paths
An important part of creating opportunities for Latinos to build wealth, whether as business owners or employees, is ensuring that young people have more pathways to high-paying jobs and careers. This means partnering with colleges and universities and investing in job creation, skills building and support services so that students from disadvantaged backgrounds can have an equal chance of success.
At Fresno/Visalia, we do this by investing in workforce development and paid internships and training programs in rural and agricultural areas primarily serving Latino teens and young adults. For example, Community Services Employment Training (CSET) provides workforce development opportunities in Tulare County, and Career Nexus recruits and prepares more than 100 people from underserved areas for paid internships with the city of Fresno.
Investing in sustainable home ownership
Sustainable home ownership is a sustainable investment for future generations and brings capital back into the community. Through the Community Home Ownership Pledge, which offers down payment and closing cost subsidies as well as low-cost mortgages, families in historically underserved communities can build a lasting financial legacy. That’s why we’re working closely with the City of Fresno to promote this program to help more Latino families realize the benefits of homeownership.
Supporting and honoring our Latino customers isn’t just a month-long initiative, it’s a long-term, multi-generational investment in America, and we’re proud to invest in a stronger economy for our region now and for years to come.
Leo Muñoz is senior vice president of Bank of America, merchant bank, for the greater central valley.