News Column

Let's Make a Deal: Hispanic Chamber Fills City of Brotherly Love

September 21, 2006

By Leanndra Martinez


Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love and home to more than 5,000 Hispanic-owned firms, is playing host to the thousands of Hispanic business owners, government officials, corporate leaders, and chamber presidents for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's 27th Annual Convention and Business Expo.

The USHCC themed its four-day convention, which is taking place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center through Saturday, "Let's Make A Deal: Hagamos Negocios."

Ironically, the convention will help spotlight how hard it can be for many Hispanic businesses to do a deal.

In an interview with The Associated Press's Deborah Yao, USHCC President and CEO Michael L Barrera identified access to capital as the biggest obstacle to the expansion of Hispanic business. "The Small Business Administration has been a great partner in providing a lot of our startup loans for our businesses, but it's more than that. We have to start looking at joint ventures, venture capital and those types of loan programs."

Thursday, the USHCC Council of Economic Advisors convened a panel led by Dr. Loui Olivas of Arizona State University and included Ronald Langston, the national director of Minority Business Development Agency, and Deborah Rosado Shaw, founder and president of Dream Big! Enterprises to discuss policy changes that would strengthen Hispanic-owned businesses.

Young entrepreneurs also are finding a niche at the convention. During USHCC Foundation's BizFest Training Program on Thursday, regional winners from San Antonio, Texas; Orange County, Calif. and Kansas City areas competed in National Youth Entrepreneurship Training Sessions. The training program has about 50 students from Philadelphia schools competing to attend the 2007 National BizFest at next year's convention in Puerto Rico.

On Friday, the SBA is hosting its Business Matchmaking Program, which pairs small businesses with government agencies and major corporations in one-on-one meetings for possible contract deals. Since starting four years ago, the program has scheduled more than 40,000 meetings and produced more than $32 million in contracts. Also on Friday, the business expo will have nearly 200 exhibitors, both Hispanic enterprises and Fortune 500 companies. The expo will present myriad resources for career planning and information about universities.

Prominent Hispanic leaders at the convention include Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez, who will address the International Luncheon on Friday along with SBA Administrator Steven Preston. During a ceremony on Saturday, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell will swear in David Lizarraga, president and CEO of the TELACU education foundation for nearly 40 years, as chair-elect of the USHCC's board of directors, and Massey Villarreal, CEO and president of Precision Task Group, as the incoming vice chair.

The convention culminates with an awards ceremony Saturday when Roberto Muller, the former president of Reebok, will speak with emcee Manny Medrano, an ABC News legal correspondent. Gary Forsee, Sprint Nextel's president and CEO, will be awarded the convention's 2006 President's Award.

"One of the main purposes of the convention is to help Hispanic entrepreneurs establish valuable relationships and resources to grow their businesses. The USHCC and Sprint Nextel exemplify such a relationship," Mr. Barrera said in a press release.

The chamber is the nation's largest advocate for the two million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

Source: (c) 2006. All rights reserved.

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