Ruben Alvarez and Jaime Molera didn’t set out to create the best Hispanic-owned lobbying firm. They weren’t trying to create a firm solely focusing on Latino issues, either. When they started Molera Alvarez in 2002, they had a much simpler, bigger vision: to be the area’s best lobbying firm.
Prior to hanging their shingle, each founding partner had logged more than a dozen years in state government. Jamie Molera served as a leading advisor to Governor Jane Dee Hull before working as the state’s superintendent of public instruction. Governor Jan Brewer then appointed him to the Arizona State Board of Education, where he was elected board president. Ruben Alvarez also advised Governor Jane Dee Hull as policy advisor and led the Governor’s Office of Equal Opportunity during his 12 years in the state’s executive branch.
While some firms stick to tent-pole issues, Alvarez says he and Molera knew they could deliver value to large corporations, nonprofits, and other clients facing a wide array of challenges. “We have a great inside knowledge of how the whole political process works, and we know all the players,” he says. “From the beginning, we wanted to leverage our skills to compete in the general market and not just focus on Latino issues.”
Today, the firm works in three main service areas: government affairs, business development, and public affairs. Molera, Alvarez, and their associates work to represent clients’ interests at all levels while eliminating obstacles to competition, removing or limiting regulations, implementing growth and outreach strategies, and opposing stifling legislation.
Fortune 100 companies are turning to Molera Alvarez for assistance reaching critical goals. For instance, Coca-Cola asked the firm to help reach Hispanic consumers and build authenticity into its community outreach efforts. Molera Alvarez organized meetings with executives and other influential stakeholders, working with Coca-Cola to scrutinize and revamp strategy to build a detailed plan targeting key stakeholders in the Southwest. By creating Hispanic outreach goals and building real alliances with Hispanic organizations, Molera Alvarez helped Coca-Cola make sound business decisions based on a genuine understanding of the Hispanic demographic.
More companies are engaging the Latino community, and Alvarez says his firm helps bridge the gap between the two parties. “Hispanics are growing in population, and corporations need to understand what’s important to the Hispanic community. If you want to take advantage of our considerable buying power, you need to take the time to really get to know us. That’s where our firm steps in to help,” he explains.
In the last decade, as they’ve worked with large clients like Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch, the partners have grown their firm from two to nine employees. “It’s been strategic,” says Alvarez of the growth. “We have to identify, recruit, hire, and keep the best policy experts so we can continue to be trusted advisers and deliver the excellent service our clients expect. Reinvesting in our team has always been a key strategy.” Their current roster includes former city council members, attorneys, government agency directors, press secretaries, office appointees, industry executives, elected officials, and other leaders.
In addition to investing in its staff, Molera Alvarez also invests in the community. “We sponsor events or do pro-bono work for causes we believe in because it’s an important part of contributing to society,” Alvarez says. In 2010, when a nonprofit group approached the firm to oppose an anti-immigration bill (the infamous House Bill 1070, ultimately signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer), Molera Alvarez lobbied against the legislation on a pro-bono basis and even spoke out publicly against the bill at a large 2010 gathering of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber with the governor in attendance. Although the bill passed, Alvarez and his colleagues engaged the business community and tourism groups to block other legislative action that would have hurt the immigrant community even more.
During his time with the firm Alvarez has seen Latino influence grow in many spheres as the population increases. While corporations target Latino consumers, politicians of all stripes covet the Latino vote. Although Molera Alvarez doesn’t spend much time working on political campaigns, its leaders monitor related issues closely and build relationships with elected officials to make sure they have the access necessary to lobby on behalf of company clients. And while the demographic is still vastly underrepresented in boardrooms and in public offices, Alvarez has seen progress.
Further, he believes that Hispanics have an opportunity to facilitate that progress by sitting on boards and participating in public organizations. Alvarez is a treasurer and board member of the Latino Leaders Network and has been involved in numerous other organizations including Desert Mountain’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Voto Latino, the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and the Phoenix Civil Service Board. Through this service, Alvarez says he’s doing his part to profile and encourage Latino leadership while supporting important community organizations and using his skills and experience to make these organizations as effective as possible.
Whether participating on nonprofit boards or lobbying key lawmakers, Alvarez’s goal is the same—input and influence. “In board membership, organizations are most effective when they consider many perspectives and collect varied advice. That’s true in government, too. It’s hard to make the right decision for everyone in the community, the city, or the state if everyone at the top looks and thinks the same,” he says. “You need all points of view.”