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Mile High Stadium in Denver.
One of her companies helped construct Mile High Stadium. Photo: Pixabay.

Linda Alvarado, a Denver tycoon

Alvarado, born to Mexican parents, is one of the 100 richest women in the United States, and has broken stereotypes along the way.

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With significant investments in construction and a series of fast food franchises, Linda Alvarado has become one of the most recognized and respected moguls in Denver, Colorado, where she also became the first Latina MLB owner, when she acquired a significant stake in the Colorado Rockies as part of the team's original investor group.

Alvarado was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1951. Although she comes from humble roots, her family, builders by nature, always taught her to think big. Her father, a Protestant minister who worked as a member of security in a laboratory and who built the adobe house where she grew up, was the one who gave her the most support so she could concentrate on her studies. It was something not normal at that time, and her mother also ever stopped encouraging her.

Linda Martinez, her maiden name, was the only daughter and the youngest of six siblings, a circumstance that influenced the way she faced life, always breaking schemes and challenging the traditional norms of the society she grew up in and how it imposed on women.

Sports and construction

A clear example of the barriers Alvarado had to break to become the successful woman she is today, happened during her high school years. At the time, sports events, such as the high jump, denied women the opportunity to compete. With the help of Alvarado's mother that changed, and she was later celebrated as the Girl Athlete of the Year.

While taking economics classes, thanks to a scholarship granted to her by Pomona College in California and her determination, she applied for a job in the maintenance department, where she was delegated gardening tasks. This decision, unconventional among other women of the time, became the first step to later focus on a career dedicated to construction, something that began after she graduated.

In 1973, she joined a construction management company in Los Angeles, which, according to her, granted her the interview because she used only her initials as her name, hiding the fact that she was a woman.

Her first business

Linda Alvarado, Denver tycoon

After Alvarado found her professional passion in life, she moved to Colorado with her husband and decided to push her ambitions further. After taking courses in estimation, surveying and computer programming, in 1976, at just 24 years old, she founded her first company, Alvarado Construction.

Faced with refusals from banks, her parents lent her $2,500 to start her company. With small jobs, she became known until signing  her first major contract to renovate the Barnsley Hotel in downtown Denver in 1983. It was an opportunity that was given to her by another extraordinary woman, Joy Burns, founder of the Women's Bank of Colorado. 

Challenging times

In 1992, while Alvarado Construction was building an office at the Denver airport, two workers died when they fell from a beam they were installing. It was a tragic accident that affected her reputation and she had to work hard to reconcile her different branches in Colorado, Arizona, California and New Mexico, and construction projects it carried out for large industries such as Kaiser Permanente, Xcel Energy and PG&E.

Fast Food

While building a shopping center in a blighted area of Denver, Linda and her husband, Robert, were looking to place a fast-food location in the center. Taco Bell, owned by PepsiCo, accepted a pitch to open a franchise. It was managed successfully by the Alvarados, who proceeded to open more locations in the area.

Thanks to their good results in managing this type of franchise, they went on to create Palo Alto, largest franchise operator in the United States. It's company Alvarado owns a 51% staje and her husband is at 49%. It now reports annual revenues approaching $325 million.

The secret of Linda and her husband lies both in the construction and in the operation of the franchises, and their philosophy of constant innovation and search for new products and strategies that have the highest quality standards that are not afraid of breaking with traditional schemes.

An icon in Denver

Alvarado's legacy is now implanted in Denver. From the Denver Broncos' Mile High Stadium to the Denver International Airport built by Alvarado Construction, and the nearly 260 restaurants operated by Palo Alto, Inc.

For her part, Alvarado wants to be able to continue doing what she likes the most: Buying land and building on it.

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