You don’t have to be Hispanic to exhibit at the Hispanic Business Expo, an event put on by the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce, but it is one way to network with the growing Hispanic business community.

The event will be held Tuesday, July 22, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Pines Manor in Edison. The Latin American Food Festival, with free samples from local restaurants, begins at 4 p.m., and there is live music throughout. For more information, visit www.mcrcc.org.

The expo is in its fourth year. Last year the event drew more than 600 people and 145 exhibitors from various sectors.

The keynote speaker is Ramon De Leon, who got his start as a pizza delivery boy at Dominos in the late 1990s. He was a pioneer in using cell phones, social media promotions, and online ordering to drive sales for the pizza chain, and now works as a social media consultant for Rise Interactive based in Chicago.

“Middlesex County is New Jersey’s economic core and the Hispanic business community here is, in many ways, responsible for that,” said Alex Hollywood, president of the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce. “De Leon’s story is exceptional, to be sure, but it’s very much illustrative of the work ethic and drive that keeps Middlesex County’s economic engine humming.”

Middlesex County has experienced a 45-percent increase in the Hispanic population since the 2000 Census, with Latinos now comprising 18 percent of the county’s population, according to Hollywood. “This growing group has significant purchasing power and plays a key role in our region’s economy,” she said.

Luis De La Hoz, a vice president at the Intersect Fund, a New Brunswick-based micro-lender to small business entrepreneurs, noted that, as the Hispanic community—and particularly its business community—continues to grow, maintaining sustained personal and business relationships is critical. De La Hoz also chairs the Small Business Council as a member of the Middlesex Chamber’s board of directors.

“Now in its fourth year, this Expo really is the premiere event for the Hispanic business community to meet new people and explore new opportunities,” he said.

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