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EFE News Service

Orlando Business Group Holds First Hispanic "Summit"

By Marcela Cortes

3 March 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE News Service. All rights reserved.

Orlando, Florida, Mar 3 (EFE).- Representatives of the rapidly growing Hispanic community in Central Florida gathered here Thursday for their first "summit" meeting, with the participation of business executives, politicians and community activists.

"This summit is the first step to better understand all the economic, political and social potential of the Central Florida Hispanic community," the event's executive director, Vilma Quintana, told EFE.

The forum, which was organized by the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce, began with the presentation of several unpublished studies measuring the impact on the area of Central Florida's more than 400,000 Latinos.

One of the reports focused on the phenomenon of Puerto Rican migration to the region, nearly half of whose Hispanic population belongs to that ethnic group. Commissioned and underwritten by Orange County, where Orlando is located, the research was carried out jointly by the Universidad de Puerto Rico and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at New York's Hunter College.

"With this study we have confirmed that Orlando has become the preferred destination for Puerto Ricans, both those coming from the island and those who come from the states of the northeastern United States," co-author Felix Matos Rodriguez told EFE after his presentation.

According to the document, Central Florida's Orange and Osceola Counties have surged ahead of New York City, Greater Chicago and eastern Pennsylvania in attracting new Puerto Rican residents.

Also unveiled at the summit was an evaluation of the size and nature of the Latino consumer market in the region, produced by the consulting firm Fishkind & Associates.

"The constant growth of the Hispanic market in Central Florida has become a significant engine of the local economy," company President Hank Fishkind said, noting that Latinos represent 20 percent of the area's population and $6.9 billion in purchasing power, a figure he projected would grow to more than $8 billion by 2007.

Besides serving as a forum for dissemination of data, the summit is meant to give businesses, civic groups and local governments the opportunity to announce initiatives aimed at the Latino community.

The head of Publix supermarkets, William E. Crenshaw, was on hand to talk about the chain's plans to bring out a line of food products for Hispanics under the label "Publix Sabor (flavor)" and to open stores designed specifically to serve Latino shoppers.

Featuring a "Latin atmosphere," bilingual staff and a broader variety of Latin American fare, the first two Hispanic Publix outlets will be in the Central Florida town of Kissimmee and in Hialeah, a Miami suburb.

"These initiatives are a response to the demographic changes the region has experienced and to the needs of the Hispanic community," Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous told EFE.

Among the speakers scheduled to appear during Friday's second and final session of the event are Colombia's ambassador to the United States, Luis A. Moreno; Mexico's director for economic relations and international cooperation, Irma A. Gomez; and the Puerto Rican resident commissioner in Washington, Luis Fortuño.

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