OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Armando Salgado, an entrepreneur, is helping Latino businesses in Nebraska grow.
Salgado, the owner of four Omaha businesses: LingoDocs Marketing Agency, a Spanish-language society magazine, an international shipping company, and a construction company, said Latinos face systemic barriers when starting a business.
He saw it firsthand five years ago when Metro Community College was expanding its Fort Omaha campus. He said hardly any minority-owned construction companies were hired to work on the campus.
“It wasn't really Metro's fault or the general contractor's fault,” said Salgado. “It's because of the sustainability of the business. If they give you a job, they need to trust that you are going to finish the job. This two-year-long project, versus just go and do a driveway which you'll do in a day.”
The inability for some minority companies to sustain long-term, multi-million-dollar jobs is due to institutional barriers, said Salgado. Lack of resources, support, education, or access to opportunities can be factors.
“Discrimination is a big thing. They can get hired to do whatever kind of job and you see cases of labor fraud against Hispanics. It’s, let me treat you like an employee but pay you like a subcontractor,” he added. “The barriers to get to sit at the table are so astronomical that a small construction business, especially a Hispanic construction business can't even fathom the idea of submitting a bid.”
That’s what ultimately inspired Salgado to teach other Latinos how to start, grow, and sustain their own businesses.
Since the summer of 2016, he’s been teaching an English and Spanish-speaking business course through Metro Community College. The English version is a four-week course called Business and Contractor Academy. The Spanish version is called Academia de Negocios y Contratistas. It’s a more extensive, nine-week course that includes additional classes on construction.
“The Spanish one’s primary focus is construction. Hispanic contractors are a huge business. There’s big quantities of the Hispanic community that work in that sector that need to be educated and provided the opportunities to help them grow their business,” said Salgado.
Salgado teaches how to start and market businesses. His courses include how to register a business, dealing with the taxes, insurance, accounting, and how to submit estimates.
To date, he’s helped over 100 minority-owned companies.
“So far there’s been over 150 companies that are now registered, licensed, paying insurance, and hiring people,” he said.
That’s been instrumental in growing Nebraska’s economy.
“It's a little difficult to track the numbers in terms of where these businesses started and where they are now, and how many people they have hired, and how much taxes they have paid. Just based on the numbers that I know, we're talking about millions and millions of dollars into our economy,” said Salgado.
Salgado, originally from Mexico, immigrated with his parents to the U.S. when he was six years old. He came to Omaha in 1996 and has since completed high school and college in Omaha. He calls this city home and is recognized as being a community leader and champion of opportunities for all. He wants others to succeed like him and experience the American dream.
“At some point, you have to ask yourself is it time for me to leave my employment and focus on my business and that's where you make the jump. I think everybody should make that jump,” Salgado said. “I'll be the first one to kick you off that mountain, but I'll make sure you have that parachute on. You have to have that parachute on, and that's what this class is about.”
He knows he wouldn’t be where he is today without others in his past helping him move forward. That’s why his focus behind his class is not only to pay it forward but also to pay it back.
“I’m just trying to help out the families, these men and women be more successful. Their entrepreneurial spirit is huge within the Hispanic community. A lot come from countries where you either work or you don’t eat,” he says. “We have to do more. A lot of people are like why aren’t they doing something about it? I can say that I am.”