Film and television actor Edward James Olmos said Saturday night in a visit to Wichita that the explosive growth of the country's Hispanic population will be a key factor in the nation's economic recovery.
"I can hardly wait for the next Census," he said, noting that the number of Hispanics in the United States rose by 13.5 million between the 1990 and 2000.
If trend continues, he said, more than 50 million Hispanics will be counted in the upcoming Census.
"That's lot of people," he said. "Our growth is overwhelming, and that's to be applauded in some respects. But it also brings a tremendous responsibility."
Olmos was the keynote speaker at the Wichita Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting and awards at the Broadview Hotel in downtown Wichita.
While the nation's diversity is healthy for its economy, Olmos said, high dropout and teen pregnancy rates among Hispanics need to be addressed.
He encouraged the entrepreneurs in the audience to focus on those issues and others as they give back to their community — not with cash, but with time.
He said that can be done while still building a successful business.
"There's nothing wrong with that, but don't lose your integrity in the process," he said. "When I die, the only thing I'm going to take with me is my integrity."
Olmos said the nation's sluggish economy will probably recover soon, and he suggested that now is a good time for business people to spend time getting to know their customers better.
Olmos, who said he was raised by his great-grandparents in Los Angeles, said brand loyalty is an integral part of the Hispanic community.
"To this day, when I go to the store to buy some soap and some toothpaste, I buy the brand that my great-great-grandmother bought," he said.
Olmos has appeared in the television shows "Miami Vice" and "Battlestar Galactica," and he was nominated for an Academy Award for his work in the movie "Stand and Deliver."
In a meeting with reporters before his address, Olmos said he was finishing work on "The Green Hornet," a movie that is scheduled to be released late this year.
Olmos said he equally enjoys working on television and movies.
"I think storytelling is storytelling," he said. "I like it all."