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Hispanic Roundtable welcomes Sherwin Williams Company’s Connor


By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent


Cleveland, July 16, 2008: Baker & Hostetler LLP hosted the Hispanic Roundtable’s Leadership Reception and Briefing in an effort to fulfill’ the Roundtable core mission of becoming full partners in Greater Cleveland’s economy and civic life.

Chris Connor, CEO and Chairman of Sherwin Williams Corp., addresses the Hispanic Roundtable

Sherwin Williams Company’s chairman and CEO Christopher M. Connor was the featured guest and he spoke about the role Latinos play in sustaining and flourishing the Cleveland economy.


“My message tonight is a simple one, it is one of hope and optimism,” Connor said. He applauded the Hispanic Roundtable’s mission statement of empowering Latinos to play a greater role in the fabric of Greater Cleveland and said that is exactly what he and Sherwin Williams want for this community.


Lorraine Vega introduced Connor, quoting her colleague’s description of him as nice, humorous, and an exceptional business leader, who asks tough questions regarding the creation of jobs, prosperity, wealth, and titles of minority-owned businesses in Northeast Ohio. 


“He sits at tables and acknowledges that there are people who may not be present and looks for possibilities to get them to participate—he looks, in other words, for a world of color,” Vega said. She said in order for the community to prosper, they must realize Cleveland companies have CEOs who are genuine, committed, and accessible.


“It is up to us to reach out, communicate, create lines, and salvage opportunities such as tonight,” Vega said.

Connor is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Team Northeast Ohio (Team NEO) and co-chairs the Cleveland Commission on Economic Partnership and Inclusion. He said the Commission is devoted to increasing diversity among major corporations, in terms of their workforce, leadership, and suppliers and encourages minority business to prosper because they increase jobs and opportunities which are vital for the region; and establish an edge to compete in the global world.


Connor said more than 100 companies and their CEOs have committed to following specific guidelines set by the Commission to improve diversity in their leaders, board of trustees, employees, and suppliers. “Minority business owners hire minorities in greater numbers and that is a good thing,” he said. Connor cautioned that the commitment of CEOs is not enough—success will require effort and grassroot organizations like the Hispanic Roundtable.


The Commission was established 8 years ago and Connor said it was met with skeptics and while it has achieved numerous milestones much work still needs to be done. “It’s a process that never ends and never should end. I want you to know this is not something we will check off our list and move on to our daily routines,” Connor said.

He also highlighted Team NEO’s commitment to make Cleveland and its surrounding 16 counties a destination of choice for business and investors.


Sherwin Williams is a global enterprise with strong presence in Central America. Connor praised the company’s International President, Alex Zalesky, for making strong relationships possible and acknowledged Zalesky’s Bolivian ancestry, understanding of the culture and fluency in Spanish were crucial to the company’s success.


Connor said Latinos have an astute work ethic, wonderful family values, and a profound emphasis on education—all qualities that make them the model citizens and the largest immigrant group that employers are seeking out.  “I hope my government will adopt an open and sane immigration policy—you are exactly the kind of people we want here,” he said.


José Feliciano, Chairman of the Hispanic Roundtable, encouraged guests to network and build relationships. He said as the Latino population grows the community needs to be more vocal and accessible.


“Hispanics control more than $292 billion in buying power … we will play a crucial role in this election, and in the future no candidate will be able to ignore us,” Feliciano said.


The Roundtable has hosted many distinguished speakers such as Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, and Eaton Corporation CEO Sandy Cutler. “We were lucky and honored to have them speak,” he said.







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