The revitalized minority chamber links up with Columbus 2020.
The Columbus Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is not well-known. In fact, the organization was dormant just two years ago.
“For that year that it was dormant there was no representation from Columbus,” says President Claudia De León. Other Hispanic chambers in Ohio and the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, though, saw Columbus as an important place to be organized “because we could get so much done at the Columbus level that would trickle down to the other cities,” she says. Now re-established, the Hispanic Chamber's mission is to connect Hispanic businesses with the rest of the city's business sector and connect the broader Hispanic community with Columbus as a whole.
“To me, integration is critical. While the (Hispanic) Chamber had existed prior, I think its focus was somewhat narrow and limited to the Hispanic community. Therefore, the community at large wasn't even aware it existed. So one of the overarching objectives is to integrate ourselves into the community at large and to be part of the economic growth that Columbus is experiencing,” explains Roland Medrano, a chamber adviser.
While pushing for integration, Medrano says he and the rest of the chamber realized how critical the effort's social and critical components are. “I think that's one of the most interesting things about the Hispanic Chamber,” he says.
Inextricably linked to the Hispanic Chamber is the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. Not only are they in the same office, Medrano describes the Columbus Chamber as the hub of all local minority chambers, which often face similar issues. The Hispanic Chamber is also allied with office-mate Columbus 2020.
“It's one of those issues that the stars just align. In my line of business I have an executive office location in the Columbus area, and I met (Columbus 2020 chief) Kenny McDonald at the same time I was actually joining the (Hispanic) Chamber. … Conversations and interactions began to happen, and we saw this great opportunity to collaborate,” says Medrano.
Collaborations with Columbus 2020 include advocating for a joint legislative agenda. The Hispanic Chamber also is helping Columbus 2020 prepare for a visit to Latin America by offering network connections and language assistance.