Porfirio Campos Jr. calls himself a typical immigrant, quick to seize the opportunities found in his adopted land.
But to the editors of Hispanic Business magazine, Campos--president of a Camarillo-based restaurant company--represents something more.
His Alamo Enterprises made the magazine's list of the 500 most profitable Latino-run businesses nationwide.
The companies and the people behind them represent the growing economic clout of Latino business.
"This is a fast-growing sector of the economy," said Hector Cantu, the magazine's managing editor. "They're creating jobs--they're generating revenue."
Four Ventura County businesses were included in the top 500. One of them builds walls and ceilings. Another is an engineering and information services specialist. A third analyzes and helps clean building sites contaminated by toxins. And one serves Mexican food across Southern California.
Hispanic Business compiled the list by including a questionnaire in the December issue and mailing the queries to more than 10,000 Latino business owners nationwide.
Campos opened the first of his six restaurants about 20 years ago in Newbury Park. An immigrant from Mexico, Campos always wanted to expand.
"I set my goal, to create 500 jobs, to be able to say, 'Thanks, America, for this opportunity,' " he said. "I think that factor has been my motivation more than success or money."
He now employs 173 people, about 55% of them Latinos. His restaurants generated an estimated $6.1 million last year, enough to rank number 390 on the list.
Campos' business, which includes The Alamo and Fundango's restaurants, has faced its share of setbacks. He recently closed Fundango's in Ventura after a year and a half of operation, convinced the restaurant would not be sufficiently profitable.
His ethnicity, he said, has not hindered his plans. "My personal perception is--in the past 18 years that I have been living in Ventura County--there are open opportunities for Hispanic businessmen," he said.
For Diego Velasquez, who owns Cali USA Acoustics in Newbury Park, his Latino background has helped the growth of his firm, which was one of the contractors on the new Edwards Cinema plaza in Camarillo. His ethnicity, shared by about 40 of his 50 employees, has helped him land government construction jobs.
"That gives you an edge," he said.
One current example: Cali is working on two Metro Rail stations in Los Angeles.
Velasquez is concerned about recent setbacks for affirmative action in the courts and state government but said he hoped his contacts and reputation would sustain his company's growth.
He hopes to expand and may open a branch in San Diego. He prefers slow, careful growth, he said, because "I don't want to grow so big that I lose control."
Another of the top firms, Camarillo-based Research Management Consultants, has grown to about 310 employees since its founding in 1987. The firm, which has provided training and information services to such clients as the Federal Aviation Administration and the Navy, earned more than $25 million in revenue last year and ranked 107 on the Hispanic Business list.
The environmental consulting firm of Holguin, Fahan and Associates, headquartered in Ventura, recently added a fourth branch and now employs about 45 people from Bakersfield to Phoenix. Vice President Mark Fahan said the executives hope to open a fifth office, in San Diego, by the end of the year.
The company assesses the environmental impact of different pollutants on soil and ground water. Its 1994 revenues of $4.2 million placed it 486th in the top 500.
Fahan said competitive prices and expert service lie behind the company's growth. Latino ownership has played a minor role, if any.
"It may have helped a little bit, but not significantly," he said. "The private sector is driven by performance."