Story by: Melissa Rondon
As President and CEO of SER Jobs for Progress National, Inc. (SER National), Ignacio Salazar works tirelessly to help Latinos improve their lives at every stage, from early childhood education to STEM training to workforce development to affordable housing. “Talent is equally distributed. Opportunity is not,” he says. “It’s our job to make sure that we put people in the path of opportunity.”
Under Dr. Salazar’s leadership, SER has successfully helped reduce the dropout rate among Latinos and improved college enrollment to a rate that surpasses that of whites. “We’ve come a long way in addressing certain kind of obstacles,” Dr. Salazar acknowledges, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to rest on his laurels anytime soon. Dr. Salazar, loves nothing more than a challenge. After becoming the Executive Director of the Detroit branch of SER as a single parent, he put his doctorate dissertation on hold and grew what was, at the time, a $100,000 business with five employees into a thriving $3 million business in the span of just four years. Within fifteen years, Mr. Salazar exploded SER into a $70 million business with over 1,000 employees nationwide. Under his guidance, SER was able to expand into other states, and the corporation diversified its assets to become exponentially more profitable -- and thus more able to make a greater positive impact in the lives of Latinos.
Dr. Salazar attributes much of his success at SER National to the people at Comerica. “They made it possible,” he says unequivocally. According to Dr. Salazar, Comerica helped him diversify SER into the giant it is today, and even helped him save the National SER organization from bankruptcy in 2000. After securing a $900,000 loan to rescue the company, Dr. Salazar became the acting President of SER. Nineteen years later, “ I’m still here,” he chuckles.
The right banker is “paramount” to the success of your business, says Dr. Salazar. “You have to have a great relationship with your lending institution to make sure that they’re with you.” He has cultivated an “integral relationship” with Comerica -- Monica Martinez sits on the SER National board and is the former Vice-Chair, intimately, understands the company’s mission. “Without them,” he says, “this path would have … maybe not happened at all.” But it did happen, and the results are tangible.
“You see the transformation in people’s lives, and what that means, and you know that … what we do makes a difference.” Dr. Salazar says. “That’s often how you end the cycle of poverty … You put one individual in a position where they can make a change and a difference, and then that change and difference becomes an example for others in the family to follow.” By investing in tomorrow’s leaders, Dr. Salazar hopes to improve the lives of Latinos everywhere. +