In the 12 years that I have resided in Pittsburgh, I have witnessed the increase in "things Hispanic" firsthand -- from new restaurants as well as hearing the Spanish language spoken more often on the streets. However, the Latino population in the region is 1. 6 percent. That is in comparison to Pennsylvania (5.7 percent) and the U.S. (16.3 percent -- the largest ethnic population in our country).
Needless to say, we see a great opportunity to be a part of the region's economic growth by attracting Hispanic investment and population: the missing link in the region's global success.
In the last two years, we at the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce have focused our efforts in forging relationships locally as well as outside of the state and the U.S. to attract Hispanic business and investments. Diversity, from a Latino perspective, is a significant positive growth opportunity for the region.
The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in March opened an office in Mexico City (Naucalpan) and developed a network of business associates in Mexico seeking investment opportunities in our region. We are also facilitating local companies in doing business in Mexico.
We have a local business incubator program that has helped to attract and create new businesses in the region. One example is VisionIT, which is ranked by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the top 30 Hispanic-owned companies in the country by revenue. VisionIT is a staffing company based in Detroit and owned by a Mexican national. The company has hired more than 100 employees in our area.
With continued effort, more Hispanic companies, investors, as well as families will be attracted to the region.
Currently, there are efforts from local organizations as well as interest from a local government that sees the value of attracting a population that is young (27.4 is the median age among Hispanics) and entrepreneurial in nature. The new Allegheny County executive and director of economic development have been very helpful and open to discussions that will positively contribute to our region economically as well as culturally as it pertains to an increase in the Hispanic population.
Local organizations such as Vibrant Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Promise are also involved in an effort to attract Hispanic population by target marketing the region's affordable housing, jobs and education.
More specifically, the Pittsburgh Promise's attractive incentive of paying up to $10,000 a year for college for Pittsburgh residents will aid in attracting Hispanic talent. Additionally, the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has also established a scholarship fund for Hispanic students. Last year we awarded one scholarship and this year we will be awarding six in an effort to attract and keep these students in the region after graduation.
Pittsburgh was once a melting pot for immigrants and it was those immigrants that built this great city. We all need to do our part in making the region more welcoming to all. In my view, Hispanics are the new immigrants that can help transform this region into a global metropolis reaching out to largely untapped markets in Central and South America.
As we continue these efforts, we need to do a better job in selling the region to Hispanics as a destination. My Latino acquaintances and I are committed to this region and everything good that it has to offer. Working together with business leaders, government officials, and local organizations, we can find the missing link as it pertains to our global economic success.
Victor H. Diaz, director of special projects for the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, was born in Cuba, grew up in New Jersey and lived in Puerto Rico and Mexico before moving to Pittsburgh.