March 2023

TheBurg News - Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

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16 | THEBURGNEWS.COM | 03.23 W hen George Fernandez first started his company, he heard a lot of "no's" from potential investors and partners. He knew which skills he brought to Harrisburg, but other companies and executives weren't quite seeing it themselves. So, he brought his own seat to the table. Literally. He recalled times when he would have to pull up a chair at networking events in order to get in on the conversation. "Every time I got a 'no,' I saw it as an opportunity to continue to educate people," he said. Fernandez, 33, founded Latino Connection in 2014 as a marketing and communications agency focused on reaching underserved communities, specifically the Latino community. He wanted to fill a gap in services that he witnessed firsthand growing up as an immigrant to the United States. It took time and lots of convincing to get people on board with his vision and mission, but over the years, Latino Connection grew. "ere's a few people that may say I'm persistent," he said. ese days, Fernandez not only runs Latino Connection, but also recently acquired PPO&S, a Harrisburg-based advertising and marketing agency. Both of his firms now operate under the newly formed umbrella company, Color & Culture. Outside of the marketing world, he also recently dove into affordable housing development. For Fernandez, all he does springs from his love for his city. "I'm able to give back to the same community and people that helped me," he said. PASSION & COMPASSION Fernandez has an electric kind of energy. If you've met him, you know. He always sounds so excited about his work—because he is. You most likely won't escape a meeting with him without a hug, and for as busy as he is, it always feels like he has plenty of time to chat. Fernandez immigrated to Harrisburg from the Dominican Republic with his single mother when he was 8 years old. He became resourceful quickly and, out of necessity, began translating and interpreting for his mother, who only spoke Spanish. REACHING UP, REACHING BACK As George Fernandez achieves success, he vows to support the community that supported him. BY MADDIE GITTENS rough his work at Latino Connection, Fernandez is often reminded of his mom. He assists many clients who face language and cultural barriers like she did, he explained. It's what inspired him to found the company. Before beginning Latino Connection, Fernandez worked at Highmark as a member outreach analyst, where he educated clients on their healthcare benefits. "It was like full closure for me because, at the age of 11 or 12, I was that kid having to interpret for my mother what her health benefits were," he said. "But it wasn't until then that I realized all of the gaps that existed after I was providing the education. I knew I wanted better for my community." Fernandez attempts to fill those gaps at Latino Connection, providing interpretation services and public health programming and by helping marketing clients better reach underserved communities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, his organization also operated mobile COVID testing units in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. As his business grew over the past few years, especially since the COVID initiatives, Fernandez knew Latino Connection was stretched too thin. At the same time, PPO&S CEO Virginia Roth was considering the future of her company and how they could better serve their clients, while reaching a wider audience. After meeting over glasses of sweet tea (Roth) and red wine (Fernandez), the two decided to join forces under Color & Culture, with Fernandez at the helm. "George is certainly mission-driven—the guy is passionate," Roth said. "He is evolving as a tremendous leader and CEO. He's compassionate and devoted to his community." At a younger age, Fernandez never could've imaged himself here, he said. It's been a long road, from having to pull up a chair to the table to sitting at the head of the table. "It's very humbling and rewarding," he said. GIVE IT RIGHT BACK When he's not in Harrisburg, Fernandez is likely in one of two places—the Dominican Republic or Disney World. If it's the latter, it's because he's "a kid at heart" and secretly loves Mickey Mouse. If it's the former, it's likely a trip to visit his mom, who now lives back in her native country. "Some people think I'm sitting on a beach with a mai tai, but I'm actually in my mom's living room or running to Costco to buy her napkins," he said. His mom was always the provider for their family growing up, but, these days, Fernandez is grateful that he gets to be that for her. She's grateful for the people who did believe in her son's vision and invested in it, Fernandez said. As much work as it took to get his business off the ground, Fernandez has felt support from his community along the way—from his high school teachers who bought his family groceries to the staff at the YWCA who provided shelter to his mom, a victim of domestic violence, and him. "We're surrounded by a very authentic, tight-knit community here in Harrisburg," he said. "I love Harrisburg. It's created so many opportunities that I never imagined." One of the newer opportunities that Fernandez has jumped into is affordable housing development, starting his company, Fernandez Realty Group. In late 2022, he broke ground on his first project, Sycamore Homes, a building that will house 23 apartment units for low-income residents in Allison Hill. In addition, he recently proposed a 48-unit affordable housing development project on the 1000-block of N. 18th St. in Harrisburg. rough his buildings, he aims to provide a high-quality living experience for renters, to promote dignity and pride, he explained. For as much as Fernandez feels his community in Harrisburg has helped him, he's motivated to do the same for others—for families like his who need a boost. "I'm surrounded by a lot of loving people," he said. "Why leave that behind? What a great way to give that right back." For more information on Color & Culture, visit For more about Latino Connection, visit

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