Minority Businessperson of the Year finalists 2012
Alpine Buick GMC
Ivette Dominguez has worked in the car business since the summer after she graduated from San Diego State University. "I went to take my car in for service," she says. "The dealership had a help-wanted sign and I thought it would be a great summer job."
Today Dominguez is president and owner of Alpine Buick GMC, a General Motors dealership in southwest Denver. Dominguez, who purchased the dealership in 2005, is one of six Hispanic female dealership owners among 4,458 GM dealerships in the United States. Dominguez is from California, and her parents immigrated from Cuba.
Dominguez doesn’t see car buyers as consumers looking for a vehicle. She sees people experiencing life events. "The act of buying a car is a significant milestone in everyone’s life," she says. "Whether it’s a young man or woman buying their first car, a young couple buying their first baby-friendly car, or someone buying their first luxury car, these are big events. I love being a part of these milestones and doing my part to make the experience great."
In 2009 GM awarded Dominguez its Mark of Excellence for the Western Region. Dominguez sits on the company’s Minority Dealer’s Advisory Council, representing Hispanic GM dealers, and is a member of the GM Women’s Retail Initiative to change industry practices. She also volunteers for the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association and the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Dominguez’s volunteer efforts extend beyond the auto industry. She and her staff participate in events such as the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ annual Alice’s 36 Hours for Kids radiothon, sponsoring the phone bank and making calls to potential donors. Last year Alpine Buick GMC launched The Alpine Difference, a program that every quarter gives grants to nonprofit organizations that help women and families in the Denver metro region. So far The Alpine Difference has awarded a total of $20,000 to the Denver Zoo, Jefferson County Public Schools, the Hispanic Chamber Education Foundation, Jodi’s Race for Awareness benefiting the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance, Dress for Success Denver, and Meals on Wheels.
The industry has had its challenges. "The last few years have strengthened our resolve," Dominguez says. "GM’s bankruptcy was a time of great uncertainty and some of our friends lost their dealerships. We still face a harder time with financing for our customers, but overall people are buying cars again."
– Nora Caley
NM Industrial Services
Sometimes it’s better to go small. When Nathan Martinez started NM Industrial Services out of his basement in 2004, he was a one-man shop specializing in small mechanical jobs.
"There’s more than one way to find opportunities," says Martinez, who started the construction company with $100 in his business account and $2,000 in savings. "I saw an opportunity to do procurements for the federal government, small projects under $3,000."
Small projects ranged from one day of installing control valves to two weeks of installing rooftop units for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). "The other contractors got to know me, and the next thing I know I was getting $15,000 jobs, even $30,000 jobs."
In his first year in business, Martinez’s company earned revenues of about $170,000. He saw great potential for growth, so he reinvested all the earnings back into the company and resigned himself to working even harder. "I was not working as hard as I had for other contractors," says Martinez, who worked for 27 years as a project manager and estimator.
Early growth was difficult, for the usual reasons. Banks would not extend a line of credit to a new small business, and bonding, or insurance for construction companies, was hard to get. Martinez eventually won the larger projects, built relationships with financial institutions and insurance companies, and by 2010 grew NM Industrial Services to an 80-employee company.
Then things got difficult again. "The last year or two were some tough years, but we found a way to overcome them," he says. "We went out for opportunities we saw were available at that time, smaller projects that we went after very seriously."
Today NM Industrial Services has 40 employees. Recent projects range from lab renovations at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden to replacing high-pressure, high-temperature piping at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The company is also working on cooling towers at Denver International Airport.
In 2011 the Hispanic Contractors of Colorado presented NM Industrial Services with the Subcontractor of the Year Award. Earlier this year NM Industrial Services received a 2012 SBA Administrator’s Award for Excellence.
– Nora Caley
Tim Marquez doesn’t consider himself a risk-taker, but the Venoco Inc. chairman and CEO hasn’t shied away from challenges – and potential failure – since graduating from Colorado School of Mines in 1980.
After 12 years as a petroleum engineer and manager for Unocal Corp., Marquez left in 1992 to launch his own oil and gas firm with $3,000 and a Visa card. He and a partner cobbled together $110,000 – enough to buy an underperforming oilfield in California that was producing revenues of about $10,000 per month. According to Forbes magazine, they used their engineering expertise to make some adjustments and increase production, and the field was soon generating $100,000 a day, giving them the capital to invest in other fields.
But Marquez, 54, says, "I don’t look at myself as a risk-taker. When I was young, I was a very cautious person. I didn’t take chances on anything. It was easier to not take a chance because then you’re not going to fail. But then at some point, sometime around my college years, I did start kind of putting myself out there and set myself up for potential failures, not being afraid of failures. And I found out, ‘Well, that feels pretty good.’ Even if you do fail, at least you can say, ‘Well, I tried.’"
Along the way at Venoco, Marquez endured his own firing as CEO amid a dispute with then-partner Enron over the company’s direction in 2002. He regained control in 2004 when he and his management team bought out Venoco’s partners, and he took the company public in 2006.
Now Marquez, who already owns 50.3 percent of the company, is seeking to take Venoco private because he doesn’t believe investors are fairly valuing the company. Venoco shareholders voted on June 5 to approve the sale of the remaining shares for $12.50 a share.
Marquez graduated from Denver’s Abraham Lincoln High School and is the son of a high school biology teacher and high school English teacher. In 2006, he and his wife, Bernadette, donated $50 million to help launch the Denver Scholarship Foundation, giving DPS graduates need-based financial assistance.
"It’s a major fundraising effort because $50 million was a good start, but that’s only a portion of what it takes," he says. "It takes about $9 million a year to fulfill our obligation there, so that continues to be a big focus for myself.
"We just awarded scholarships to the biggest class ever," he says. "About 900 more students will be going to college this year, and I think that will put our total of kids in college at about 3,600 kids. It’s helped drive change in the DPS because now kids have a reason to graduate from high school."
– Mike Taylor