County’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce celebrates three decades of increasing influence
on October 24, 2009
When the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Alameda County opened its doors in 1979, it consisted of a few small entrepreneurs trying to create a Latino voice in the Bay Area business community. Three decades later, HCCAC members sit on the boards of major local companies and have a direct line to the region’s elected officials.
In a celebration of the growing Latino presence in Bay Area business and politics, more than 500 people gathered at the Oakland Airport Hilton on October 23 to acknowledge the HCCAC’s 30th anniversary.
“Today, there are over 18,000 Latino-owned businesses in Alameda County, and they’ve done a tremendous amount to stimulate the local economy,” said Felix Galaviz, the chamber’s CEO. “We’re involved in Fortune 500 companies. It’s not just mom-and-pop stores.”
The evening’s festivities included mariachi music, a silent auction, and a chance to rub elbows with county business and political leaders. Guests included executives from Citi, Wells Fargo, Clorox and other businesses. It was a far cry from those early days, when Latino business leaders had few opportunities to participate in economic and political decisions that affected their communities and the Bay Area as a whole.
“The people connected with the chamber did this with great sacrifice,” Galaviz said. “It wasn’t always easy, but they kept it up. There are more than 300,000 Latinos in Alameda County today, and it’s important to make sure they are involved and represented.”
Today, the HCCAC is headquartered on Oakland’s Embarcadero and defines its mission as serving the Latino community’s business, economic and social needs. It supports a Hispanic Business, Education and Training initiative, and hosts an annual Education Student Summit to encourage Latino students to earn a college degree.
During its 30th anniversary gala, the HCCAC also presented awards to regional political leaders to recognize their contributions to public education and assistance to Hispanic-owned businesses. Honorees included Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente and California State Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro). Lee and De La Fuente were both out of town and accepted their awards through intermediaries. In her speech, Corbett thanked the HCCAC for its contributions to community development throughout the county.
“The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce pulls people into the community and helps them understand the day-to-day difficulties there are in doing business,” Corbett said. “They support education and make sure that the regulations that are on the books foster business.”
Former State Senate President Pro Tem and Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata was scheduled to make the keynote address, but could not attend.
Image: Musical entertainment at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 30th anniversary celebration.
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