Business leaders honored for positive impact to Latino communities

Two Arizonans who have had a major impact on immigration, trade, and border relations and security are winners of the 2019 Man and the Woman of the Year business awards from the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

They and other business leaders are being honored for their long service and contributions to Arizona and the Latino community at the chamber’s 61st Black & White Ball and Business Awards Noche de Flamenco May 4.

The Man of the Year is Marco Lopez, president and CEO of Intermestic Partners, that invests in, develops, and manages companies across borders. The Woman of the Year is Elisa de la Vara, chief community officer of the Arizona Community Foundation, who oversees the foundation’s impact loan program, border philanthropy and other initiatives.

About 1,200 Arizona business and community leaders attend the annual event. The awards ceremony recognizes entrepreneurs who have contributed to the “state’s social progress and economic prosperity.”

“We are proud to host this year’s 61st anniversary to honor some of the state’s most impressive business leaders who are making a positive impact in Arizona,” said Hispanic Chamber President Gonzalo de La Melena, Jr., “Our gala is the longest running in the state and it symbolizes how far we have come as a community to achieve economic prosperity.”

The 2019 awards and winners are:

Man of the Year Award Marco Lopez, president and CEO of Intermestic Partners, is famous for being “America’s youngest mayor” after being elected at age 22 to be mayor of border town Nogales 19 years ago. That was the start of a long career in public service and commerce. Lopez has been instrumental in promoting and effecting cross border trade and border security. Now as head of Intermestic Partners, he invests in, develops and manages a wide portfolio of companies to maximize impact across borders.

Lopez also serves as a founding partner in Skybridge Arizona, the country’s first air cargo hub housing joint United States-Mexico customs. Marco is a senior advisor to the chairman of Grupo Carso, a Mexican global conglomerate with a market cap of over $12 billion. He also is senior advisor to the Carlos Slim Foundation, a $5.5 billion endowment.

Among his many accomplishments, Lopez served as U.S. advisor to presidential campaigns in Latin America on national security, border trade and commerce, and economic development. Lopez was Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) where he managed a $12 billion budget and 60,000 employees. While at CBP, Marco helped develop key international partnerships that strengthened security while ensuring the efficient movement of people and goods into the United States.

“I am grateful to the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for this recognition,” Lopez said. “Growing up along the Arizona-Mexico border, we see Phoenix as a distant place. The reality is, no matter where we’re born or where we come from, we are all one Arizona. We all want quality education, good health, and a great job. The Chamber empowers us towards that mission.”

Woman of the Year Elisa de la Vara is chief community officer of the Arizona Community Foundation, one of the largest foundations of its kind in America. de la Vara oversees the Foundation’s engagements and relationships with Arizona’s diverse communities. In her role, she is responsible for the grants management division and all major community initiatives including the Community Impact Loan Fund, affordable housing fund, immigration and border philanthropy. de la Vara is also responsible for the foundation’s affiliate system, overseeing regional staff in Cochise, Flagstaff, Sedona, Yavapai County and Yuma.

When de la Vara Elisa joined the foundation in 2015, she brought four decades of experience in community development and in the nonprofit, government and commercial sectors. Most recently, she managed the daily operations of Congressman Pastor’s District 7 Office.

Prior to that, she was state director of Fannie Mae’s Arizona office and held leadership roles throughout the state including serving as a special assistant to Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt and as an executive vice president of Chicanos Por La Causa.

“I am both honored and humbled to be recognized as this year’s Woman of the Year by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce,” said de la Vara. “This recognition is meaningful to the many years of community service I have had the opportunity and privilege to engage in throughout my career.”

Entrepreneur of the Year Alex Campos is CEO of one of the fastest growing professional employer organizations in the country, Vensure Employer Services. The professional employer organization processes more than $3 billion in payroll and supports more than 250,000 worksite employees across America. Vensure helps thousands of clients manage, and grow their business by providing employee and employer-related administration services and benefits.

Legacy Award Tommy Espinoza is a prominent architect of several Latino community and business development programs in the state. With over 45 years of experience in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, the Phoenix native has helped thousands of Latino families and individuals through educational opportunity and community and business development. Currently, Espinoza is the president, CEO and co-founder of Raza Development Fund, which is the nation’s largest Latino Community Development Financial Institution for the past twenty years with nearly $400 million in total assets under management.

Corporation of the Year Hensley Beverage Company, Arizona’s largest beer distributor  – headquartered in Phoenix since 1955 – distributes a diverse portfolio of beverages including Anheuser Busch beers. In the past two decades, Anheuser-Busch has given out $45 million in grants and contributions nationally in support of the Latino community. Locally, Hensley has helped raised in excess of $7 million during that time through sponsorship of community-based special events. Its annual Budweiser Shootout golf tournament has raised more than $935,000 to support Latino education.

Victoria Harker

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