The Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce launched its newest affiliate chamber in Nogales last week as part of its expansion into other Southern Arizona communities.
The Ambos Nogales Hispanic Chamber of Commerce joins the Sierra Vista chamber, which began operations in December, and a Douglas chamber that is scheduled to open in May.
Discussions about expanding the chamber’s efforts south started to take shape about a year ago, officials said.
Over the last five years, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has grown dramatically, from about 350 members to more than 1,100, said Lea Marquéz-Peterson, the chamber president and CEO.
With that increased visibility came attention from outside the Tucson metro area about the group’s programs.
“We were getting enough inquiries that our board of directors and our staff started thinking what should our work be in the various counties surrounding us,” Marquéz-Peterson said. “We realized early on that we weren’t limited in any way geographically.”
Hispanic chambers are generally independent from one another, as is the case between the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Tucson chamber, but the Sierra Vista, Douglas and Ambos Nogales chambers are affiliates of THCC.
“It makes a difference from a financial perspective,” Marquéz-Peterson said. “It would be hard to launch a stand-alone chamber in Sierra Vista or Douglas, but they’re able to lean on the resources we have in Tucson and the infrastructure we’ve put in place.”
Yolanda Calles, owner of Produce Software Inc. in Rio Rico, is one of the first official members of the Ambos Nogales Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Her company develops software for produce companies to handle distribution and finances.
As a small-business owner wanting to expand, she said she took the chance to join the group. “I’m starting to look at options that will allow me to reach that growth,” Calles said. “I’m hoping to meet other members, go to events and network.”
Helping business owners such as Calles is what the chamber is about, officials said. They cited a recent $250,000 grant from the Small Business Administration that will allow them to provide business consulting and one-on-one training not only in Tucson but also in Cochise and Santa Cruz counties.
Increasing its presence closer to the border will also sharpen the chamber’s focus on the economic interdependence between Sonora and Arizona, officials said.
“We’re working with businesses across the border to help them either expand or grow on the Arizona side, and we help Arizona businesses become suppliers to some of the larger industries in Nogales, Sonora,” Marquéz-Peterson said.
“It’s really about creating connections and building bridges.”