September 15, 2000

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Looks Toward Future With New Treasurer

When Victor Calderon helped form the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 1989, he did so with the intention of empowering the Hispanic business community with the resources needed to thrive in the marketplace. This Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce provides real benefits to business community at-large, but the Hispanic business person has specific culturally rooted needs and concerns that could only be addressed by an organization geared toward the Hispanic business community. "We have a better understanding of the needs and obstacles that Hispanic owned businesses, and create services and opportunities to overcome them," says Robert Villareal, the organization's executive director.

Victor Calderon

Some of the obstacles Villarreal refers to is the procurement of contracts with cities, private corporations and nonprofit organizations. "They tend to buy from people they've known for a long time" which puts newcomers at a disadvantage says Villarreal. "Also there's a lot of paperwork for businesses to get in the door... We help them streamline the process so they can win these contracts."

It has been more than a decade that the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has been successfully meeting the growing needs of the community. According to the Chamber, San Diego Latinos spend $7 billion and Tijuana Latinos spend $3 billion in San Diego County each year. This burgeoning market demands a sound infrastructure within the San Diego Hispanic business community. With 850 members, a majority of whom are business owners, it has achieved a great deal and the organization's plans for the future are even bigger.

The organization recently hired its first executive director who oversees daily operations and implements policies set by the board of directors. According to Manny Aguilar, the president of the board of directors, the Chamber plans to secure financing to purchase its own building. "We need to have our own building and have assets we can leverage," says Aguilar.

A key strategy in achieving this goal was the recent appointment of treasurer of the board of directors, Thomas J. Saiz, CPA, partner with Calderon Jaham & Osborn Certified Public Accountants and Consultants. "Tom's going to be instrumental in getting our financial operations running smoother," says Villarreal. The organization has scheduled its first internal audit which Saiz will prepare the Chamber for and interpret the results. "After he reviews the audit, Tom will be able to make recommendations for improvement," he adds.

Aguilar says Saiz was selected for the position because of his background on nonprofit organizations, reputation and commitment to the entire San Diego community. His accounting firm specializes in nonprofit organizations, small businesses, governmental entities and health care organizations. "He is passionate about small business development and committed to the Hispanic community," says Aguilar. "He'll bring a balanced approach."

"I was honored to be selected as the treasurer of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce especially since my mentor, Mr. Calderon was one of the organization's founders" says Saiz. "I have always been impressed with the Hispanic Chamber's mission of creating an atmosphere for businesses to thrive promoting educational opportunities to Hispanic youth through scholarships and promoting Hispanic culture and history through the Mariachi Festival." Saiz says he feel deeply indebted to Calderon and other founders of the Chamber who paved the way not only for himself, but for other business people. "There have been so many strides in the advancement for the Hispanic business owners in the past ten years. Sure, we have a way to go, but that's all the more reason to keep the Chamber strong and active. We owe so much to those who came before us and didn't enjoy the same opportunities we have today. I feel it the best way we can acknowledge these leaders in the Hispanic business community is to continue their fine work and help the Hispanic business community grow even stronger in the future.

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