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Hispanic Chamber hears about growth in area

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By Kyle Mooty

LPR Editor

While Lockhart Mayor Lew White, Lockhart ISD Superintendent Mark Estrada, and Greater San Marcos Partnership President Jason Giulietti all talked about growth in the area, the Greater Caldwell County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce enjoyed some growth of its own, adding to its list of awards at Saturday evening’s banquet held at the Fountains of Lockhart.

Honors went to Lil’ Charlie’s restaurant for Business of the Year, Kent Black for Business Man of the Year, Alesia Avila for Business Woman of the Year, Jimmy Silva as the recipient for the Orgulla Award, and Adrian Guiterrez as the first ever winner of the Fermin T. Islas Service Award.

The Keynote Speaker for the event was former television personality and current Austin Food magazine contributor Tania Ortega.

GCCHCC Chairman Rob Ortiz was the emcee of the festivities following music by Broseph, and dinner for a packed house at the Fountains.

Giulietti, noting that the Greater San Marcos Partnership covers Caldwell and Hays counties, called the area “the epicenter of the world. It’s where everybody wants to be.”

Guilietti said people will hardly recognize Highway 130 in a year because of the businesses and people coming to the area. He said in 2021 his organization brought $80 million in tax revenue to the area and a China plant building solar panels will be a $1.1 billion investment in the area.

“That is happening in your backyard,” Guilietti said. “We are stronger because you guys are working together.”

White said it was a great day to be in Lockhart with all of the successes the school and community has realized.

“We’ve experienced 16 percent growth since the last Census,” White said. “Now, everybody is glad to see 2021 in our rearview mirror.

“Growth, growth, growth. Housing startups are up to 200 percent.”

White noted Iron Ox was already planning to expand on its new operations in Lockhart, adding that “Industrial Park is busy” and “others are about to be announced.”

White said the city was looking to improve the aesthetics of downtown. He said a key to the entire area’s success are the regular meetings between the city, Lockhart ISD and Caldwell County as they exchange ideas.

Superintendent Estrada also mentioned the growth of the area. When he came to Lockhart a decade ago, Estrada said the enrollment of the school district was about 2,000 less than it is now. He now oversees 6,200 students in all grades and expects more than 7,000 soon.

“People ask me about the school bond issue.,” Estrada said. “The answer is we have to pass it. The reality is we have the lowest taxes in central Texas. All of that has an impact on what we provide for our kids. We have teachers with kids in closets tutoring them. We’re going to need your support to get that bond passed. Our teachers want to stay here and work here. We have to show them that support.”

Ortega was born in San Diego, California, raised in Tijuana, Mexico, attended San Diego State University, and worked for three years with Telemundo in Waco before joining a station in Austin. A self-described “foodie,” Ortega is now a contributor for Austin Food magazine. She is a first generation Mexican/American.

“We’re resilient people,” Ortega said. “I’m the first in my family to go to college.

“I’ve always loved Lockhart since the first time I came here and got to eat barbecue and walk downtown.”

Lil’ Charlie’s owners Jacob and April Alvarez were presented the Business of the Year Award by Michael Capello. The name of the restaurant, Capello said, derived from the name of their daughter, Charlotte.

“It is a town favorite and three of the last four years has won Best Wings,” Capello said.

Jacob Alvarez said running a restaurant was not easy.

“There’re a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “It can become rough. April did everything I knew how to do and made it easier. I love what I do.”

Alesia Avila was named Business Woman of the Year after opening Simply True Nutrition about 18 months ago.

“The last year or so has been a challenge,” presenter Jonathan Gonzales said. “This individual took the bull by the horns.”

Avila said when she first came to Lockhart she didn’t know anyone, and that made her work even harder.

“I wanted to provide healthier options, especially after Covid,” Avila said.

Kent Black, owner and pitmaster of Black’s Barbecue, was presented the Business Man of the Year Award by Alfonso Sifuentes.

“Kent opened his first business at the age of six selling snow cones outside of Black’s Barbecue,” Sifuentes said. “Black’s now he has over 150 employees in four cities.”

Black and his wife, Candy, were celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary Saturday.

“I am so humbled to receive this,” Black said. “I feel so lucky to be recognized by friends in the county. My job is just to not screw it up.”

Black’s is the oldest same family-owned restaurant in Texas. Kent Black said his parents and grandparents left a good blueprint to follow.

Adrian Gutierrez was the recipient of the first Fermin T. Islas Service Award, which was presented by Islas.

“Adrian started taking pictures at five years old.,” said Islas. “He always dreamed of being a photographer. His patience is amazing.”

Gutierrez was touched by the award.

“This is really an honor and means a lot to me,” Gutierrez said. “It goes beyond photography. It’s serving the community. My wife sees how much joy it brings to me.”

Mary Ortiz presented the Orgulla Award to Jimmy Silva, organizer of the annual Cinco de Mayo 5k/10k.

“Our young kids are our future,” Silva said. “It’s really not about time, but it’s about if you have a heart or not to volunteer. I’ve had a lot of help along the way.”

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