As the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce turns 50 years old, Anette Landeros has big goals.

At the chamber’s annual state of the chamber event, Landeros announced she wants to grow the chamber’s membership from just over 700 to 1,000. But she said it’s not all about the numbers.

“The reason why we feel it’s important to grow our chamber is not to say we are this many businesses. It is to say that we are reaching more people,” Landeros said. “That we know we have a product that is valued and that we are serving more people with our product.”

This year, the chamber edged closer to the membership goal. With a five-person team, the chamber grew its membership 22% — from 580 to 708 members, according to a chamber fact sheet. Construction and finance businesses each represented 15% of membership. 

Gloria Starling, chairwoman at the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber and managing partner at the Capital Grill, also noted the growth. 

“There is no secret we are growing super fast, and it’s super awesome,” Starling said. “But the more we continue to work together, the more that we continue to connect those circles, and the more we continue to show the world, how badass Fort Worth is, the better we’re going to be.” 

The chamber scaled up in several other areas. The organization increased the number of events hosted to 71, compared with 56 in 2021. It provided $321,000 in scholarships, including a full ride to Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business.

In the past year, the chamber opened a bilingual business incubator called Abierto Open for Business and a room available for members to produce videos and podcasts, as well as provided 76 free business consultations. The chamber acts as a Spanish-speaking center for the city, Landeros said.

Consultations are a “small little blurb on our website, but the way they find out is through their friends and family,” she said.

The Hispanic chamber depends a lot on word of mouth to show its services are valuable and trustworthy, she said. 

Looking into 2023, the chamber will be focusing on continued membership and program growth, highlighting diverse business leaders and commercial redevelopment of the Historic Northside, Landeros said. 

The chamber plans to release a 50th anniversary publication highlighting 50 influential existing and emerging Hispanic leaders in the area. The chamber will host its second annual summit on how to attract and retain talent in the city. The chamber was also selected as part of the Main Street America program to revitalize the Historic Northside neighborhood. 

The chamber will advocate for the community locally and in the upcoming state legislative session, said Ish Arebalos, chairman of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber. Some of the priorities include workforce development, higher education and transportation.

Arebalos wants to commit to issues that will affect the health and growth of the city. That means advocating to foster a business environment that encourages business development, expansion and retention and seeking out and lifting up young leaders in the community. 

“It’s important that our state leaders hear from our Fort Worth business community,” Arebalos said. “We’ll lend resources and expertise, where we can make a meaningful and positive difference.”

Growth doesn’t come without challenges. Landeros wants to make sure the organization expands sustainably. With only five employees, the chamber needs to expand to meet more ambitious goals and to serve the entire city, Landeros said.

“I feel like we have a great team, running a mile a minute and getting it done,” Landeros said. “But for us to be able to expand our capacity at some point, you just need to expand the team.”

The use of minority-owned businesses on large public contracts needs to be a focus in Fort Worth, she said — especially as projects emerge with Panther Island. The chamber organized the Build Fort Worth Expo, a networking event that is meant to help Hispanic and minority contractors. 

Membership retention rate hovers around 80% each year, Landeros said. Some businesses go out of business, but most are lost contacts from circumstances such as switching jobs or being too busy to network. Many become members again when contact is re-established, she said. Membership is important to the chamber, she said — losing a member is like losing a friend. 

Overall, she hopes that the community sees a chamber that is continually striving for the best.

“I hope that the community knows that we are continually trying our best,” Landeros said.  “That we’re continuing to try to improve what our chamber adds to our city and that our members are proud of what we’re doing, our city is proud of what we’re doing and that we can reach more people.”

Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at seth.bodine@fortworthreport.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.

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Seth BodineBusiness Reporter

Seth Bodine is the business reporter for the Fort Worth Report. He previously covered agriculture and rural issues in Oklahoma for the public radio station, KOSU, as a Report for America corps member....