HISPANIC CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
* Increase business networking
* Provide business education to members
* Support economic and cultural understanding
* Increase the involvement of the Hispanic business community
* Represent Hispanic business interests
Source: Gladys Pineda-Loher
WHOM TO CONTACT
Gladys Pineda-Loher at 865-617-8490 or firstname.lastname@example.org
When Jhon Daza and his wife Joana opened their Latin American grocery in Red Bank, it was a dream come true, but not an easy one to achieve.
"We started from zero," said the Colombia native who moved to Red Bank from New Jersey five years ago. "We had to research everything, from where to buy the equipment we needed to distributors."
A Hispanic chamber of commerce that readily provided that information would have been great, he said, but nothing like that exists yet in Chattanooga.
Gladys Pineda-Loher, who moved from Knoxville last year, recently proposed the first Hispanic chamber of commerce to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.
"Currently, I don't think there are any organizations that are trying to (serve) the Hispanic business community nor any organization recognizing the accomplishments of Hispanic businesses," said Pineda-Loher, who was a board member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee in Knoxville.
Nashville and Memphis also have Hispanic chambers of commerce.
J.Ed. Marston, vice president of marketing and communications for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber has considered doing something to serve Hispanic business owners for several years now.
"We've had an initial conversation, and we are enthusiastic about idea, but it's still very much in the exploratory stages," he said.
The exact number of Hispanic business owners in the area is unknown, something Pineda-Loher would like to change once the Hispanic chamber is in place, she said. But U.S. Census estimates of 2009 show there are more than 11,000 Hispanic residents in Hamilton County.
In 2000, there were about 5,500 Hispanics in Hamilton County, according to the census.
"We have not, in Chattanooga, seen a dramatic population increase that some other areas have, although I suspect (the statistics) might be underreporting what's really happening in that regard," Marston said.
"But we've seen a big upswing in businesses, whether they are Hispanic-owned or otherwise, interested in connecting with the Spanish-speaking community," he said. "Looking forward, we know that this is going to be an important group of business owners and certainly it is already an extremely important customer base."
Pineda-Loher said she wants to organize events such a Hispanic business conference and a Latin food, dance and wine festival. She also wants to offer business education and resources to chamber members and to serve as a bridge between business owners and the community at-large.
For Daza, a Hispanic chamber of commerce could unify small business owners and help prevent fraud.
He is currently in debt for a credit card machine he was overcharged for and can't do anything about it because he signed a 48-month contract.
"We didn't know anything about it, and when we tried to get out, it was too late," he said.