Jersey Bound Latino - Summer 2016
Helping Latinos is a Family Tradition for Hispanic Chamber’s Carlos Medina
Julie Schwietert Collazo 2016-05-04 03:10:27
As president of Robinson Aerial Surveys, Carlos Medina was already busy when he was elected chairman of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey three years ago. But for Medina, the extra workload is worth the effort. As the lead representative of the more than 70,000 Hispanic-owned businesses the Chamber represents, Medina has numerous opportunities to see how his advocacy and the Chamber’s activities have had a profound impact on people’s lives. “My payment,” he said, “is when I receive emails and letters thanking me for our work. Helping people every day is what I love to do.” Help comes in many forms. The Chamber organizes and hosts four key events each year, including an expo and awards luncheon, a health fair, and a diversity event intended to promote better cultural representation among boards and managers in organizations and businesses. On a day-to-day basis Medina and the other members of the Chamber leadership are fielding questions and calls for all sorts of business advice and assistance. More and more of New Jersey’s Latinos and Latinas are starting their own businesses, Medina said, and they’re eager for guidance and information about funding and navigating bureaucracy. They’re also keen to see and meet other business leaders who look and talk like them, who share similar cultural values and who may have familiar “rise to the top” success stories. Medina has recently begun getting in touch with those roots, traveling to Cuba for the first time in April 2015. He went with members of the Chamber to explore and discuss business opportunities. “People in Cuba are very friendly, very anxious to be involved in entrepreneurial activities,” he reported. While he is aware that their U.S. counterparts— including New Jersey entrepreneurs—are eager to begin forging business ties, he cautions that the relationship between the two countries still needs to develop before many businesspeople will feel confident enough to take a risk on the island. Personal and political experiences, especially among people with Cuban family ties, still exert influence over their readiness to hang a shingle in Havana. The ambivalence is even felt in Medina’s own family. “I only spent three nights in Havana because my wife is Cuban and my mother-in-law didn’t really want me to go,” he explained. For now, Medina has plenty to keep him busy at home. An unprecedented number of Latins, especially Latinas, are launching businesses in New Jersey and need the Chamber’s support. The health/beauty and food sectors are especially strong and the Chamber is exploring ways in which it can expand its support to a membership with diversifying business plans and goals. New Jersey offers the kind of growth opportunities that some of its neighboring states do not, according to Medina. With lower real estate and overhead costs compared to New York City, the barrier to entry as an entrepreneur tends to be lower in most New Jersey cities and towns, he noted. Generous tax credit programs in some jurisdictions make doing business in the state even more attractive, said Medina, who claimed it’s a great time to be a Latino or Latina entrepreneur in New Jersey. He’s proud to be a leader, mentor, and resource for those who want to capitalize on this moment. Would you like to read this article in Spanish? Visit www.jerseyboundlatino.com/articles. Medina’s Inspiration Carlos Medina’s story is similar to other Americans of Cuban heritage. While he was born and raised in New Jersey and educated at Rutgers University, Medina’s parents emigrated from the Caribbean - his father from Cuba and his mother from Puerto Rico. They met in New York City more than 60 years ago and married, despite his maternal grandfather’s protest: “that Cuban only wants his papers.” What “that Cuban” wanted, Medina said, was to achieve financial stability and provide his three children with the best education possible. He did that through the power of networking, finding himself in a career as one of the highest-ranked Latinos of his generation at The New York Times. There, he oversaw the Times’ “morgue,” an archive where more than 160 years of clippings, photos, and other materials were stored. But his role was more expansive than his official title, Medina added, explaining that Times’ management would call his father to be an ambassador of sorts when Latin American heads of states, dignitaries, and other VIPs came to visit. Medina’s father, who arrived in the U.S. with just $10 in his pocket, came to be a role model for many employees, especially Latinos since he led the paper’s Hispanic Club. His father exhibited ingenuity, intensity, and an incredibly outgoing personality. “If I was all my dad, I’d be too intense,” said Medina, who earned a law degree from Rutgers Law School and spent more than two decades in the fields of engineering and surveying and construction management. “Thankfully, my mom was the calmer person in our household.” His mother, who was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, worked at a bank until Medina was born. “I think she felt that we were well-off enough at that point and she stopped working” he said. He sees himself as having inherited traits from both parents and cultures, noting that they balance each other out.
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