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Immigrants get the job done in Utah, new report finds

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SALT LAKE CITY — A new survey shows almost 69 percent of Utahns feel immigrants contribute in a positive way to the state’s economy and feel supportive about those businesses.

Standing by Red Iguana 2, owner Lucy Cardenas explained how her parents, both immigrants, started a business decades ago – and it thrived.

“My parents were very supported in the community,” Cardenas remembered.

Cardenas’ parents opened their first restaurant, called Casa Grande, in 1965 after immigrating to Salt Lake City.

“My parents were pioneers in bringing their type of cooking to the valley, and my family is very proud of that,” she said.

Cardenas now owns the Red Iguana restaurants, which are a well-established part of the North Temple neighborhood of Salt Lake City. Her second location, Red Iguana 2, turns 10 years old this year.

Alex Guzman, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, says education and increased fluency are helping second and third generation Hispanics take their businesses to the next level.

“We are in the beautiful state of Utah,” he said, “where the economy is very open and friendly for business, regardless the origin and to be quite honest, the legal status, of some.

Guzman estimates there are around 30,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in Utah, with an annual impact of $9.4 billion.

“We are creating jobs, we are creating goods and services. Our job at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is to help the Hispanic business community do business, not only with the Hispanic segment, but the general market,” Guzman said.

The survey from Zions Bank found 72 percent of Utahns are likely to support Hispanic-owned businesses, and 62 percent see the economic impact of those businesses as positive. Over the course of a year, 84 percent of Utahns shop at a Hispanic-owned business, the survey found.