The Dayton Hispanic Chamber is Ohio's fastest growing Hispanic chamber at 100 members, according to its executive director.
Yvonne Bravo Wathen attributes that growth to a push for members and new events uniting those members, such as a recent monthly meeting at the recently built Center for Tissue Innovation and Research in Kettering.
But Jose "Rafi" Rodriguez, executive director of the Ohio Hispanic Chambers of Commerce (and a former director of the Dayton Hispanic Chamber) sees another factors at work: An awareness that the state's Hispanic population has been growing.
At nearly 355,000 residents, Hispanics make up 3.1 percent of Ohio's population -- a 63 percent rise since 2000, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. That growth came at a time when the state's population as a whole grew just 1.6 percent from 2000 to 2010.
In Dayton, Hispanics made up 3 percent of the city's 142,148 residents, according to a 2011 Census estimate.
"The Hispanic community is an integral part of the Dayton area's growth," Rodriguez said.
With a statewide median household income of $34,500 and more than 9,700 Hispanic-owned businesses with $2.3 billion in receipts (according to the Ohio Department of Development), Hispanics are a community businesses can ill afford to ignore, said Rodriguez, a Beavercreek financial planner and a retired Air Force colonel.
"They recognize the importance of penetrating the Hispanic market," Rodriguez said of member businesses.
The state and Dayton Hispanic chambers cater to Hispanic and non-Hispanic members. "We welcome all kinds of businesses," Wathen said.
And that's the point, said Robert Salinas, president and owner of Miamisburg's Salinas Industries and a member of both the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Dayton Hispanic Chamber.
"The main reason for joining any group is people you feel comfortable with," Salinas said.
Salinas was born in Mexico, grew up in Texas and moved to Toledo for his first real job in quality control for Allied Chemical. Today, his company makes sound deadeners and insulation material for Chrysler as well as tow and tissue products.
He recognizes that any good chamber can help "nurture" entrepreneurs of any stripe. But for minority entrepreneurs, the need can be greater, particularly when it comes to achieving certication as a minority-owned business, he said.
"You learn from people you work with all your life, and those lessons are good," Salinas said.
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