As part of a national partnership with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Wells Fargo recently announced a $1.2 million grant over two years to support the organization’s Chamber Training Institute. We asked the chamber president and CEO, Javier Palomarez, about the organization’s work.
Q: What is the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s mission?
Palomarez: Our organization represents 4.1 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. that together contribute more than $661 billion to our country’s economy every year. We also advocate on behalf of 259 major American corporations through a network of more than 200 local chambers of commerce and business associations nationwide.
While we represent the interests of businessmen and businesswomen who happen to be of Hispanic descent, our members are first and foremost American entrepreneurs. Every tax bill they pay, every job they create, every product they manufacture, and every service they provide benefits the U.S. economy.
Q: How does your organization’s work with Wells Fargo help to support that mission?
Palomarez: The collaboration between the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Wells Fargo is changing the lives of Hispanic entrepreneurs and providing their businesses the opportunity to flourish. Studies show that, more than any other demographic, Hispanics start businesses because they want to be self-reliant. Hispanics want to be the job creators in America.
Wells Fargo stands by the chamber and our vision to train hundreds of leaders to better serve the small businesses in our communities. With Wells Fargo’s support, we train leaders of local chambers of commerce through the Chamber Training Institute. To date, we’ve trained 820 leaders from more than 250 local chambers of commerce.
We’re proud to be investing funds in chambers that have done outstanding work to drive upward mobility, job creation, and innovation in local communities.
It’s also important to note that the institute’s training is open to everyone, not only Hispanic business owners, because we believe that commerce is driven by diversity. When you entrench yourself in your own group, you often fail to recognize the cultural, social, and economic nuances that can impact your businesses.
That’s why we’re working with other diverse chambers of commerce to ensure that we have a mix of people in the room. Businesses flourish when they collaborate and explore the diversity of thought that exists within each group.
Q: What are the biggest issues facing Hispanic entrepreneurs?
Palomarez: Access to capital, credit, and federal contracts. Of the $98 billion in business contracts assigned to small businesses in 2012, only 8 percent were granted to Hispanic-owned businesses, even though we represent 14 percent of American small businesses.
Compared to our counterparts, Hispanic business owners are relatively new arrivals in the U.S. economy. We lack the deep networks, history, and access to opportunity that other entrepreneurs have.
Q: What’s your vision for the future of the chamber?
Palomarez: The Hispanic community has become a defining feature of the changing face of America. Increasingly, our businesses are scaling, our contributions are being felt, and our stories are being told.
As the U.S. Hispanic population grows, so does our ability to determine the course of our nation’s economic, social, and political future. For years, we’ve spoken about how one day our community would finally redefine its own narrative. I believe that day has come. Today, the Hispanic community has emerged in every aspect of American life — socially, economically, and politically — and we’re strengthening our nation.
My biggest hope is that through the efforts of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Hispanic community will help elect the next president — someone who will be their champion and help every person in the U.S. attain the American dream.