In an effort to strengthen the business community, the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Latino Business Alliance (LBA) to offer programs that will better connect segments of the Salem community.
Latino-owned businesses are the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy, creating jobs and economic growth across the country. According to the 2007 U.S. Census, Latinos account for nearly 44 percent of the population growth in Oregon alone. By 2012, Latinos represented over $4.5 billion in purchasing power for the state, and $881 million in the Salem Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).
“As business owners, we want to serve all members of our community,” said Maria Palacio, owner of Olson Florist and Salem Chamber Board member. “This diversity is calling us to shift paradigms and to embrace our diversity to ensure a stable economic future for our communities.”
With the continued growth of the Latino community, it’s important that these businesses have the resources that allow them to be successful. The partnership between LBA and the Salem Chamber will allow for more educational opportunities and mentoring between Latinos and non-Latinos, leading to a stronger, more unified, business community.
“It’s about proper outreach, but also proper engagement,” said Jose Gonzalez, president of LBA and owner of Tu Casa Real Estate, who has seen first-hand the challenges presented by language barriers and cultural differences. For example, in Spanish, there is no word for ‘networking’. Also, in Latin American countries, Chambers of Commerce are only for the elite, and other organizations are not welcome. Education on both sides will go a long way in breaking down barriers, which will allow for greater business growth.
Martin Arreola with Advanced Economic Solutions Inc., who also serves as a Salem Chamber Board member, said the partnership will encourage entrepreneurship by providing opportunities to connect and build new relationships between businesses, helping them step outside their comfort zone and grow their business at a different level.
“It’s about economic development,” he said, “and that benefits everyone.”
Gonzalez agrees. “The more [Latinos] grow their sales and employees, it really does benefit the whole community.”
Partnerships like this are unique. Arreola said that in many communities, cultural groups are segmented and don’t work together. This is a way not only to provide leadership in the Salem community, but to set an example as well.
“We can be a role model for other cities for collaboration,” said Arreola. “We are one Salem community.”
For details on the Salem Chamber’s partnership with LBA, go to salemchamber.org/lba