The Greater Hazleton (Penn.) Chamber of Commerce hopes to get downtown Hispanic business owners involved in the community.
As a starting point, the chamber is inviting the business people to a seminar that will be held from 8 to 9 a.m. Friday at Mea's Restaurant.
"We just want to sit down and talk to these business people, to hear what concerns they have, to try to get them involved in the community," said Donna Palermo, chamber president. "Right now, we don't have great involvement with the Latino community."
Palermo said Amilcar Arroyo asked if the chamber would hold the meeting and told her "at least 30" Hispanic business persons would attend.
Hazleton Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi, state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, and Palermo will address the group. Arroyo will be on hand to serve as interpreter for those who don't speak English.
One of the topics, Palermo said, would be the new overlay ordinance that governs downtown building aesthetics.
"We want to try to get them familiar what we're trying to do with that, and try to get them involved with the (Great Pennsylvania) cleanup. We're just trying to open a dialogue with them," she said.
Palermo said she has a list of about 60 Hispanic businesses downtown "but there is some duplication" because some people own more than one business.
Bill Spear Jr., chairman of the chamber's downtown committee, said the chamber has tried previously to reach out to the Hispanic business community but had minimal success due to low turnout.
"We've tried this two or three times over the past five or six years," he said. "We want to talk to business people about how we can work together, how we can promote their business -- especially if it is in the downtown area, and see if they want to become part of the chamber."
Spear said the chamber needs to develop better lines of communication to connect with the businesses.
"It's about business contacts and relationships," he said. "We don't have fax numbers, we don't have emails. If we want to do something, or want to let everybody know about a downtown promotion, like the farmers' market, it is very difficult to get to who we need to get to because there is a lack of modern technology.
"If we can get some of these people to the table, and get some correspondence (tools), emails, addresses and phone numbers, then when we want to plan something, we'd like to include them in that."
Palermo said the best response the chamber has had to one of its events from the Hispanic community has been for the visit of Santa and Mrs. Claus to downtown at Christmas time.
Palermo said the chamber also will have information about the Great Pennsylvania Cleanup, the chamber's Job Fair on March 24 and other events at the seminar.
"If we get a nice representation, we can do these meetings monthly, or have them come to the downtown (committee) meeting," Palermo said.
David Sosar will be moderator for Friday's meeting.
"Even if we get just a few, if they come and listen, and then go back to their neighboring businesses and say we should be involved in this that would be great," Palermo said. "We have to take baby steps now."
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