His job is to act as a facilitator, a tutor to walk potential business owners through the process of starting and running a business. There are more than 20 Latino-owned businesses in Ottumwa.
Still, not everyone was happy with the shift to a more diverse area, Hernandez said.
"I hate to say it, but I think that's actually part of the process," Hernandez said, adding that people will be fearful on both sides of the customs counter. "It's when we get to know our neighbors by name that we start seeing them as people like ourselves."
Now that second-generation Latino residents actually go to school in Ottumwa, there's more hope of that.
"I think it'll be different with the kids. Adults may have had to struggle with immigration, but the kids are being raised alongside each other; that's what they know, Hernandez said. "This award isn't about me. It's about Ottumwa and that we've done a good job integrating, of getting past that initial reluctance or fear."
Iowa International Center’s Passport to Prosperity is scheduled for Sept. 28 at Drake University in Des Moines.
— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark