By Reece Hanzon
The Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is encouraging businesses growth and political awareness through leadership and networking opportunities.
The chamber”s main function is to provide leadership and business connections for Hispanic businesses and business owners.
It may be called the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, but business owners don”t need to have ancestors from Latin America or even understand a word of Spanish to join.
“You don”t have to be Hispanic or even speak Spanish to be a member,” said Carlos Linares, the chamber”s executive director. “Just have an open mind.”
The reason behind the chamber”s open membership policy? Business contacts.
Founded in 1991, the Hispanic Chamber has nearly 250 member businesses, representing 400 to 500 individuals. One of the major functions of the Chamber is to provide opportunities for its members to mingle and establish business contacts among themselves. So, more members mean more connections and more opportunities, whether they are Hispanic.
“We surround ourselves with leaders,” said Carlos Linares, executive director of the chamber. “Our board of director”s is a Who”s Who of Utah businesses.”
And with the Hispanic population growing every year, having contacts in the Hispanic community is a valuable asset.
The Hispanic community has a yearly purchasing power between $4 billion and $5 billion in Utah alone, Linares said. He added there are an estimated 41 million Hispanics in the United States as a whole.
The atmosphere within the Hispanic Chamber is certainly conducive to good business, said Jan Carlston, a sales represenative for ProTel Networks, a Chamber member. He said the chamber”s activities are a great way to meet clients.
“They don”t want to do business out of the Yellow Pages,” Carlston said. “They want to meet you up close and personal.”
Carlston decided the Hispanic Chamber would be good for his company when a business acquaintance invited him to a luncheon put on by the chamber.
“These are down-to-earth, business-type people trying to make their business go,” Carlston said.
The Hispanic Chamber isn”t just for businesspeople, either. Carlston said Gov. Jon Huntsman has attended several events.
“At the meetings, you get most of the Hispanic members of government; we”ve had nearly every major candidate come to one of our meetings,” Carlston said. “You”ve got a voice; you”ve got a place to go if you”re Hispanic and even if you”re not.”
Of course, the Hispanic Chamber, like any organization, has its limitations.
“The meetings don”t last long enough sometimes,” Carlston said. “There”s a lot of stuff going on and sometimes it”s hard to get around to everybody.”
That”s about the only reason Ingrid Santana, a Provo business owner, isn”t a member.
Santana has owned and operated a beauty salon in Provo for the past 13 years and said she”s thought about joining the Hispanic Chamber, but hasn”t yet. She usually does business the old-fashioned way: with the phone book. That”s where she found suppliers for most of the hair products she uses and sells in her salon.
“It”s good for Hispanics to get together and learn,” Santana said. “But I just don”t have time.”