Chairman Sarbanes and distinguished Members of the Committee, I am honored to appear here today as a nominee for the Board of Directors of the National Consumer Cooperative Bank.
I am here because I believe my combined experience, as a military officer, entrepreneur and community leader is consistent with the mission of the National Consumer Cooperative Bank. It was established to address the financial needs of an underserved community. The Bank's primary lines of business include Multifamily and Commercial Real Estate Services, Commercial and Small Business Banking, Community Development, and Personal Banking. To date, NCB has provided more than six billion dollars in financing, thousands of homeownership opportunities, school facilities for 4,500 students, 1,000 affordable assisted living units, a health center serving 100,000 patients annually and more than 10,000 employee stock owners. In short, the Bank provides economic empowerment!
My goal on this board is to bring these options to communities like my own in Passaic, New Jersey. Once a deserted area of marginalized immigrants that had to commute to New York for work, now a thriving center of commerce because business people like my father invested and started businesses to increase the city's economic vitality. He would say "No se puede sacar sin dar" - "You cannot take without giving."
With those words in mind, I left to join the United States Navy at the age of seventeen. This country had given my family opportunity when we arrived as immigrants in 1970; I knew that opportunity came with responsibility. And so it was for nine years as I worked my way up the ranks from enlisted to officer. I attended Fordham University on a NROTC scholarship and received my Bachelors degree in Economics. The regimented training and discipline prepared me for an even greater challenge.
After my father's sudden death in 1996, I resigned my commission to fulfill my family duty and care for the business my father began years before. I have been President and CEO of ECO & Sons, Inc. for seven years. In that time, I have significantly increased revenue every year, diversified our products and services, and created new jobs to expand the employee base. I inherited a large "bodega" in debt, however today due to strategic planning and investment ECO & Sons, Inc. makes a profit through a successful independent supermarket, an upscale catering company, and an e-commerce site that survived the internet downturn. Currently, I own one of the top 500 Hispanic businesses in the country according to Hispanic Business Magazine.
In addition, I was selected as 1999 Dun & Bradstreet #2 Minority Entrepreneur, 1999 Finalist for Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year, 1999 Hispanic Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year, 2000 Finalist Hispanic Business Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year, and 2001 Finalist for Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year. To share the benefits of my success, I work with several organizations including the Paterson Restoration Corporation, New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, William Paterson University Foundation, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce - to name a few.
While those accolades look great on a resume, what I'm really proud of is building a partnership with my community. They know I am there to service their needs whether it is for groceries or otherwise. For instance, the Passaic fire last year put 75 families out on the street without shelter or food. They came to me and we fed those families three meals a day for two weeks and they ate with dignity because that food came from a supermarket that they patronize. I was humbled that they came to me instead of one of the many big chain stores. I connect with my customers and peers alike.
I understand and have overcome the challenges that face minority entrepreneurs - the lack of capital, scarce resources, no mentoring. The NCB has developed and implemented a successful model, a public and private sector partnership, to solve those problems and provide innovative solutions. With my experience, I will be an integral part of those solutions. I would be proud to serve on the Board of Directors of the National Consumer Cooperative Bank and I appreciate your consideration.
Allow me to answer any questions you may have at this time.
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