Alex Garza

American Dreamer

How do you turn a kid into a budding entrepreneur? Put him to work. That’s what did it for Alex Garza.

“I was pumping gas at 6 or 7,” says Garza, now 39 and an assistant vice president at Wells Fargo’s Home and Consumer Finance Group in Las Vegas. “I used to love it. You got tipped a quarter or a dollar—that’s what gave me my work ethic.”

Garza worked for his dad, an undocumented Mexican national who came to this country to build a better life, and did just that by building—by hand—a truck stop in Alamo, 90 miles north of Las Vegas. Garza and his brothers and sisters helped him carry and place the concrete blocks.

The Garzas were a curiosity in the tiny town populated by farmers and ranchers. “We were the only Hispanics,” he says, sitting in his fourth-floor office with a postcard view of the Strip. “A novelty.” He graduated from UNLV with a degree in special education and taught for six years in the Clark County School District. He liked the work but needed more money, so he opened a real estate firm with a few partners. He’s vice president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, president of the Nevada Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and vice president of Hispanics in Politics.

He’s also a registered Republican. But don’t think Tea Party Republican. “I am not going to say I’m disappointed she lost,” he says of Sharron Angle’s recent Senate bid.

Instead, think big-tent guy, passionate about enabling others to have the same opportunities he did. In his Republican Party, low taxes and smaller government are good; repealing the 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause, killing the Dream Act and Arizona’s SB 1070 are bad. Immigration is both a moral and an economic issue, he says. “We are missing out on tapping the great natural resource that is the mind and purchasing power of the young Hispanic.”

That brand of Republicanism isn’t grabbing headlines these days. And while he doesn’t rule out a run for public office, Garza’s content working behind the scenes, secure in the knowledge that time and statistics are on his side. “The Hispanic population is growing faster than any other demographic,” he says. “Eventually, you are going to see a shift.”