Economic growth: Now is the time and Utah is the place

Story and photo by SARAH SAIDYKHAN

Utah is home to thriving companies, up-and-coming businesses, an eclectic array of restaurants, nightlife, recreations and so much more. For an eager entrepreneur, Utah is the home of opportunity. Since 1991, the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (UHCC) has worked in assisting people on their quest for economic development and stronger ties to their communities.

UHCC

The sign and coat of arms on the Salt Lake City building.

For almost 30 years, what began as a small handful of people looking for a change in Utah’s economy has grown into a large network now led by Alex Guzman, president and CEO, according to the Better Business Bureau of Utah. Now the chamber assists Utahns with networking opportunities to showcase their businesses, provides access to educational workshops, offers scholarship opportunities and more. In the four years that Guzman has been president of UHCC, he has revolutionized the chamber. He said he had a vision of what leaders in the Hispanic community must be doing and he set out to make it happen. Under Guzman’s direction, the chamber has moved away from the corporate office scene and ventured out into the community where he meets with the people of Utah.

The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute reported in 2016 that Utah had a Hispanic community with over 400,000 residents. These numbers are growing each day. Utah’s Latino residents work hard, play hard and give back to their communities to help the state flourish. As Guzman said, “We take care of each other.”

One of the goals of a chamber of commerce is to help citizens understand what it takes to start a business. Guzman said he has taken this theory and put it into action. If you’ve thought about opening your own business, there are steps you must follow. For members of Utah’s Hispanic community, one of those first steps should be joining the UHCC. The possibilities to expand the business are then at one’s fingertips.

Esmeralda Avalos works for the chamber and is one of the first points of contact at UHCC. She said the opportunities offered through the chamber are beneficial to keeping a business running smoothly and she loves seeing business owners looking for new ways to explore the vision and mission of their companies.

One opportunity is the Business Academy, a 10-week course that specializes in essential business topics through education and training. It is only offered at UHCC.

“The Business Academy opens your mind to become more business wise; look at it as a business,” Avalos said. Participants must realize there is more to entrepreneurship than simply stating, “I want to open a business.” Avalos said the course entails in-depth education and hands-on learning. “Marketing, objectives, workshops, communications, customer service, goals, how to get funding” — these are just a few of the topics that are covered during the Business Academy courses, she said.

To obtain financing, loan institutions need to know that entrepreneurs have taken classes on accounting, marketing, distribution, licenses, fees, permits, employees and even taxes.

Juan Pascua is the membership director at UHCC. He said the chamber offers the skills to “help Hispanic businesses understand what they need.” Learning about owning and operating a successful company is all part of the membership, which includes media marketing on Alpha Media Radio, representation on the UHCC website and direct links to other members’ businesses.

Helping to support the Hispanic community in Salt Lake City is important. Pascua said. “If we don’t have the information, we can get the people to another member who has it.” For example, he explained that if someone has a question about business taxes that an employee can’t answer, an expert will be called in. “It’s all part of networking,” Pascua said.

The Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is growing. Right now, it has offices in Salt Lake, Ogden and St. George. These locations serve as information centers, places to hold seminars, workshops and the Business Academy courses.

With help from local sponsors like Zions Bank, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Utah Cultural Celebration Center, Utah’s economy will continue to grow and provide for the residents for years to come.

For more information about UHCC or to become a sponsor, call Esmeralda Avalos at 801-532-3308.