Gilroy Chamber has ‘rebuffed Hispanic business leaders’

Dear Editor,
Enough with all these attacks going on back and forth between
Chamber of Commerce leadership, its members, and community. How
much dialogue do we need to express in the opinion page before we
recognize a huge opportunity to act, reconcile, and find
resolution.
Dear Editor,

Enough with all these attacks going on back and forth between Chamber of Commerce leadership, its members, and community. How much dialogue do we need to express in the opinion page before we recognize a huge opportunity to act, reconcile, and find resolution. To make matters worse, Jeff Martin’s diatribe in today’s issue sounds like shuck and jive and appears as smoke and mirrors. Instead of looking for resolution, he attempts to justify why the Chamber might take a position to not invite the Hispanic Chamber onto one of their committees and implies Hispanics have no desire to take leadership positions within the Chamber.

I disagree with Jeff’s assertions that the Hispanic Chamber and the Gilroy Chamber have little in common. In fact, they are both very interested in advocacy and support of the Gilroy business community and both are involved in supporting various other components of the community such as education and community service organizations. My involvement at the Gilroy Chamber included membership, committee participation, committee chair, board member, and, ultimately, president and CEO. When I became president and CEO, one of my top priorities was to create a solid bridge and relationship between the two chambers. I invited the Hispanic Chamber to use our facilities for board meetings and other activities. This did not last long due to resistance at the Gilroy Chamber. Another attempt that was foiled was to add Spanish speaking personnel in order to promote and better serve the Hispanic or Latino business community.

Martin writes that Dennis Taylor does not know why there are no Hispanics on the Gilroy Chamber Board. Based on his letter, he certainly does not know either – or he is pretending not to know. Why people keep questioning the existence of two chambers in Gilroy is wearing thin. The Hispanic business leaders in Gilroy attempted to work with the Gilroy Chamber many years ago and were rebuffed. In addition, the Hispanic business leadership believed they could better serve the Hispanic business community. Hence, the Gilroy Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was established.

Today, you see Hispanic chambers thriving and serving their communities throughout the country. The need is so great, you have two in San Jose who both deliver some valuable services to their respective membership and community. And guess what, they both have solid relationships with the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.

I am suggesting some specific actions the Gilroy Chamber might consider in order to better serve its business community:

n Inventory the Hispanic or Latino owned businesses in Gilroy.

n Create a pro-active plan to recruit members from that segment of the community.

n Pro-actively explore the possibilities in hiring bilingual/bicultural personnel to serve these new members.

n Pro-actively seek out those members of the Chamber who might be interested in developing a committee to focus on the Hispanic businesses.

n Pro-actively seek a meeting with the Hispanic Chamber leadership and discuss how the two chambers might partner and work on common goals. The key word here is “pro-active”.

Let’s not use the “race card” in defending one’s position on these issues. Beyond not implying racism, we should not be in a position to have to constantly defending ourselves against being a racist. It is unnecessary.

As Denise Apuzzo states in her recent column, Gilroy has a significant and large Hispanic community as well as very successful businesses. The Gilroy Chamber should be paying attention … as this segment will continue to grow and it would be shameful if there were not at least an attempt to address these opportunities. Business in general and the community would gain immensely. The opportunity for the current leadership to leave a valuable legacy is before them, I hope it doesn’t slip by.

Ernesto Olivares, Gilroy, past president and CEO, Gilroy Chamber of Commerce

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