Prominent Florida business leaders sought to rally support for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden Friday with a virtual town hall appealing to undecided Hispanic and Black voters.
The event, organized by the Biden for President campaign, included appearances by healthcare industry magnate Miguel “Mike” Fernandez; Related Group CEO and chairman Jorge M. Pérez; renowned Spanish chef José Andrés; VMD Ventures founder Harold Mills; and Half Moon Empanadas CEO Pilar Guzman-Zavala.
The hour-long discussion, moderated by Felice Gorordo, CEO of eMerge Americas, gave each panelist the opportunity to share personal stories and argue against the “socialist” label that opponents have pasted on Biden.
Pérez, whose company is the largest real estate developer in Florida, spoke about his former friendship with President Donald Trump and why he believes Biden is the best choice to succeed him.
“I know Donald Trump very, very well,” said Pérez, who is a Democrat. “I was very close to him until he became President. He offered me several posts within his administration and asked me to build the wall between the U.S. and Mexico. I said no. Donald Trump cares about one thing and one thing only: Donald Trump. He is a man without ideals who sells interests and doesn’t listen.
“I want to go back to the land of opportunity and that’s the Democratic Party,” said Pérez, a Cuban immigrant. “That’s not the party that says we’re going to give our money to large businesses and that will trickle down to the poor. That’s not the party of big oil companies. That’s why I think it’s a shame that Hispanics and small-business owners are not 100% for Biden.”
Mills, who is based in Orlando, spoke about his prosperity during the Obama-Biden administration. In 2011, he sold his staffing company ZeroChaos, then one of the largest Black-owned businesses in the country with $3 billion in annual revenue, to a New York equity firm for $200 million.
“Trust your own experience versus the rhetoric,” Mills said. “On one side we have a proven leader who has a history of helping business owners and entrepreneurs. My business thrived during the economic environment Biden was able to create. He’s a proven leader.
“On the other side, you have someone else who wants to pick winners and losers among businesses,” Mills said. “He wants Amazon’s contracts to be taken away because its owner runs a newspaper he doesn’t like. He wants Twitter to publish everything he says and when they don’t do it, he wants to use the power of government to shut them down. That’s a dictatorship. As a business owner, you have to ask yourself: Could the President come after me the way he’s gone after Jeff Bezos if I do something he doesn’t like?”
Organizers of the event declined to reveal the number of registrations and said viewership was unavailable. The complete discussion is available to stream on Facebook here.
The overriding message was to implore viewers to vote and, if possible, assist Biden’s Florida campaign.
“For me, it’s all about showing up, said Guzman-Zavala, who grew up in Mexico and now operates 13 locations of her empanada restaurants around Miami-Dade. “You have to speak up and share your story with as many people as you can. It’s important people understand America is the land of opportunity.
“I can’t wrap my head around Latino small business owners who don’t support Biden,” she said. “We tend to relate to [current events] through our personal stories in our home countries. But this is America. This is a country that has institutions and we want a president who respects that and follows science and follows facts.”