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Latinos in the Boardroom 

Trailblazer of the Day | Thursday, October 10, 2013

Roberto Goizueta, Robert “Bob” Ontiveros, Elizabeth Colón

In the past decade, Latino business ownership in the United States has doubled to 3.2 million companies. According to Hispanic Business, Illinois is home to 26 of the top 500 Latino-owned companies in the country, behind only Florida, Texas and California. These top Illinois businesses earned nearly $1 billion in revenue in 2012 and employed over 5,000 Illinoisans.

The first Latino CEO of a Fortune 500 company was Cuban-born Roberto Goizueta (1931-1997), who headed Coca-Cola for nearly two decades. After Fidel Castro rose to power, Goizueta defected to the U.S., where he worked as a chemist for Coca-Cola. By age 35, he had risen to Vice President of Technical Research and Development, the youngest person ever to hold this position within the organization. In 1981, Goizueta was named CEO and is credited with transforming the company into an innovative, global brand. His risk-driven marketing campaigns brought about such iconic slogans as “Coke is it!”. During Goizueta’s 16-year tenure, Coke stock saw a 7,100% return on investment.

Moline native Bob Ontiveros is the founder and chairman of Group O, Inc., the largest Latino-owned company in Illinois and 14th largest in the country. Ontiveros founded Group O in 1974 as a local packaging supplier; however, his business quickly grew into an international specialist in supply chain management, marketing and business analytics, aiding clients such as AT&T, Microsoft, and PepsiCo. While developing his own company, Ontiveros has been an advocate for Latino businesses and active community member in the Quad Cities. In 2013, he was inducted into the Order of Lincoln, Illinois’s highest civilian honor, in recognition of his accomplishments in business and contributions to the Land of Lincoln.

Elizabeth Colón, a Chicago native of Puerto Rican descent and a DePaul University graduate, is the founder and president of the highest-ranked Latina-owned company in Illinois. Working as a hospital interpreter, Colón saw a need for improved language services and, in 2007, took a risk by creating her own business - Metaphrasis Language and Cultural Solutions - based in Frankfort, Illinois. Today, Metaphrasis’s 300 translators and 100 interpreters offer services in 180 languages to clients in the medical, legal and educational fields. Colón has been featured in Hispanic Executive magazine and was given an honorable mention as one of Enterprising Women magazine’s 2011 Enterprising Women of the Year. She serves on the Norwegian American Hospital Foundation board and is active in the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.