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Valley-wide 'America’s Chamber of Commerce' assuages fears but needs more resources to flourish

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Have you heard the business buzz? There is a new regional chamber of commerce with a goal to lift business persons’ interests regardless of their national origin.

Registered in August 2019, America’s Chamber of Commerce (ACC) is meant for any Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valley entrepreneur or business that wishes to be involved and is made up of a dedicated core team whose aim is to enfranchise small local businesses.  It currently has six members.

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Businesses can become members at various entrepreneurial, corporate or investor levels. Someone can become an entrepreneurial member for  $189/yr. The highest investor membership fee is $30,000/yr which grants that entity access to everything ACC has to offer.

ACC takes into account the deficit of non-English speakers involved in other local chambers by offering all of its services in Spanish.

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It is not just the language barrier that skews this trend; it is also fear. Executive Director John Lopez says “fear is a consequence of no education, legal aspects and other important aspects” surrounding the Hispanic community.

Therefore one of their most important services is business education. On Feb. 22, Lopez and CEO Paulina Navas held a tutorial on information and communication technologies at the Basalt Library. It was an intimate setting with roughly a dozen attendees. Lopez gave a thorough presentation which was followed by an active Q&A. While such tutorials are commonplace this one was unique, for this region, because it was offered in Spanish.

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Toward the end of March, it will facilitate another educational session regarding legal immigration and the reconciliation of mishandled business information. Deportation is of high concern for many people, some of whom have had businesses in the Valley for decades. ACC would like to see people overcome their fears and ultimately obtain legal documentation. .

Navas and Lopez also plan to hold an event for English speakers to learn Spanish terms relative to their line of work. That way someone who works with Spanish speakers can learn how to more effectively communicate within their business.

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Part of the networking and education component is teaching companies how to control the market. Without a consensus among businesses prices plummet and the market is compromised. ACC will network between like businesses and facilitate communication to keep prices consistent and competitive. 

One successful story is that of Ruby’s Embroidery in El Jebel. The business is run by Nadin Vargas and Maria Navarro and is one of the six members. ACC helped Vargas and Navarro effectively network with various businesses including another member to embroider custom uniforms and logos. To Lopez, part of his pay is the client’s happiness.

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Not only will the organization manifest connections between businesses but also with other local chambers. ACC is already working with the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.

At this point, the organization’s only sponsor is Alpine Bank. Its contribution thus far has made it possible for ACC to get off to a good start. That said the new chamber needs more resources and hence more sponsors. ACC was able to afford paying Lopez for the first few months but ever since he has been volunteering his time — which takes up a lot of it.

Lopez sighs, “We need more sponsors this project is a little bit expensive and we can only activate two of eight programs and our intention is to start all eight programs.”

Navas hopes that the Hispanic people will not be “afraid” to participate in the census. That way the state and region will acquire a larger budget to reflect the actual population which will increase support for local nonprofit and governmental services.

Currently there are four ACC board members and they are seeking a fifth — ideally someone who is familiar with finance and business. The board meets every last Wednesday of the month. Email if you’re interested.

Lopez says, “Our people have a lot of fear for entrepreneurship or the business world because they are exposed.” Navas was quick to add, “We need to break out of that.”

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