Richard Montanez started his career in 1976 as a janitor in Frito-Lay’s Rancho Cucamonga plant.
Now a PepsiCo executive, he is recognized as the creator of the Flamin’ Hot line of products and has been featured in Hispanic Lifestyle magazine as one of the most influential Hispanics in corporate America.
Montanez will join comedienne-turned-actress April Hernandez Castillo; Juan Andrade Jr., president of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute; and motivational speaker and author Victor Antonio as featured keynote speakers at this year’s Heartland Latino Leadership conference on Nov. 15.
Now in its 14th year, the conference has drawn as many as 450 people. What started as a networking and learning opportunity for Latinos has expanded over the years.
Programming has also evolved. The event, which originally hosted local speakers, now draws national speakers like Montanez.
Montanez, who didn’t attend high school or college, was working as a janitor when he decided to pitch an idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to the company’s CEO. Since then, he has helped influence Hispanic products and marketing promotions for KFC and Taco Bell; has been invited by the White House numerous times, including to welcome Pope Benedict XVI; and has presented to the United Nations.
“My disqualifications are the very things that qualified me,” he told a crowd earlier this month at an event hosted by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.
The conference will include workshops led by poet and spoken word artist Joaquin Zihuatanejo; former NASA employee Shayla Rivera; and Beverly Kracher, CEO and executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance, among others.
The first annual Youth Empowerment Summit will also be held Nov. 14, featuring workshops related to financial aid, career development, a college fair and a workshop for parents. The summit is free to all high school students and parents.
Sixteen $1,000 scholarship recipients will be announced during this year’s scholarship luncheon on Nov 15.
All events will be held at the Hilton Omaha, 1001 Cass St.
Registration for the conference is $200 per person when registering online or $220 on the day of the event. College students with identification can attend at a discounted rate of $50, and high school students with identification can attend for $25. Tickets for the scholarship luncheon on Nov. 15 may be purchased for $30. Volunteer rates are also available. For more information, visit http://heartlandlatino.org/conference.