Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Three Hispanic chambers of commerce in Middle Tennessee

The Tennessean in this article profiles Middle Tennessee's three Hispanic chambers of commerce: the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

"Three Hispanic chambers - the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce - have sprung up to serve this community. For them, advocacy does not stop at the bottom line. It also can mean organizing carnivals and pageants, developing positions on key political issues, and serving as a goodwill ambassador be tween the Spanish- and English-speaking communities."

"So long is the list of needs, it has produced schisms within the Hispanic business community, as leaders have differed over direction and priorities. But all three agree on one thing: The success of their organizations depends on being more than simply a booster for business."

"The proliferation of Hispanic chambers comes amid an immigration boom in Nashville. Davidson County now has the largest Hispanic population of any county in Tennessee, more than 31,000 people. Rutherford and Williamson counties rank third and eighth, respectively."

"That has helped push the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the Nashville area up more than 40 percent since the late 1990s to more than 1,500 companies."

"The chambers remain independent of one another, but they nonetheless share a few characteristics:
- All are led by Hispanic business people, with memberships that draw both Hispanics and non-Hispanics.
- All three conduct their meetings in English, though some provide Spanish translators.
- All three chapters see themselves as bridges between the Anglo and Latino worlds."

As for the chambers' constituencies, the article cites the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington as saying that "fewer than 40 percent" of Nashville's Hispanic residents "have a high school diploma and less than half can speak English well."

Focus: Business

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