News Column

Q&A with David Lizarraga

November 2004, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Joel Russell

DL: David Lizarraga
FR: Frank Rivera
AO: Armando Ojeda

DL: First, I want you to meet the team. I'm David Lizarraga, the chair, Frank Rivera is the vice-chair, and here's our incoming President Armando Ojeda. The reason I didn't want to make this a singular interview is that it's about a team. It's about bringing together an entire team, the board of directors. And also launching an initiative that's very important. That's an initiative to align, so we can do something important, to make maximum use the resources we have. We consider it a new day. We consider it a new opportunity. We consider it an opportunity to reach a new level, but reach it with substance and new services of use to our members.

Joel, you've been with us a long time, following this saga. It's an institution that is wonderful, with history and that has a mission and vision. We want to build on that vision. We're a huge market. We heard yesterday from one of our corporate sponsors that by the year 2007, we'll be a trillion-dollar market. Our concern is that we need to be equipped as an organization to support our members in the effort to get a bigger piece of that market and the national market.

This is not a time anymore to sit back and wait while everybody sells to us but us. This is a time when we should be capturing opportunities and assisting in that process. So we're going to be member oriented. We'll concentrate on the growth of what we consider the base of the organization. We don't consider this an organization that works from the top down. It needs to come from the bottom up. So that means you have to be sensitive to those needs.

Meantime, we have to be cognizant of our role. We are in Washington, D.C. for a purpose. We are in Washington D.C. to be advocates in the process. Advocates for legislative initiatives, advocates for any legislation that would affect small and medium-sized businesses. We want not only to monitor legislation but create opportunities for legislation that would better serve our membership.

We're also looking at aligning that advocacy with our state and local chamber initiatives. You know, everything is local. So local political issues that affect small businesses are handled at the local level. State laws that affect small and medium-sized businesses are important. We have to align ourselves with state and regional chambers. We should [handle] national initiatives.

We are a huge umbrella organization, with a tremendous entrepreneurial force that we represent. We must never forget who holds the umbrella. We serve our constituency to move their agenda forward.

Now for some of the issues I see as important for the chamber:

We need a significant procurement agenda. We have to work with our corporate partners and Corporate America, but also hold them accountable in how they deliver opportunities and extend themselves to our base. Of course, a partnership goes both ways. We also have to provide supportive services to make that possible, have a mechanism for reaching out to members [Hispanic companies]. That doesn't exist at this time. It will exist going forward.

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