Education and Nonprofits

Hispanic chamber launches foundation

September 26, 2017
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West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Expo!
The Grand Rapids-based West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce produces various events in the region, such as its Business Expo! Photo via

A local chamber of commerce has formed a foundation that will fund services for Latinos in the business and educational communities.

The West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said it has launched The West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The 501(c)3 nonprofit will offer programming and support services to Latino business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals. It also will create and support educational programs for Latino students.

Luis Avila, president of the board for the chamber, said the foundation is an “unprecedented” step toward better serving West Michigan Hispanics.

“By making this a community-wide effort — through key partnerships with like-minded organizations and relying on the support of grant-making organizations, businesses and individuals — we believe the foundation will have a tangible, long-lasting, positive impact in the areas of economic and workforce development in our region,” he said.

The chamber also announced its 2017-18 strategic plan.

“We are excited to roll out an aggressive agenda over the coming months,” said Guillermo Cisneros, executive director of the chamber.

“(First), we are launching a new program, Transformando West Michigan, that will focus on the revitalization of Hispanic businesses in West Michigan by collaborating with both the private and public sector to help qualifying Hispanic businesses access resources that are not currently available to them,” he said.

Among those resources, the chamber will assist with mentoring, cosmetic improvements, marketing, employee training, access to capital and strategic planning.

“(Second), the chamber will create programming for Latino students to receive the guidance, mentoring and resources to successfully enter the West Michigan job market upon completion of their studies,” Cisneros said. “We want to surround Latino students with the necessary resources to pursue their dream career, whatever it may be.”

Avila emphasized that “collaboration with other community stakeholders will be vital to the lasting success of the chamber’s strategic plan.”

The chamber also appointed four new board members who will serve three-year terms:

Raul Alvarez, chief communicator, GTSD Group

Tony Baker, director of community engagement, Ferris State University

Brad Laackman, president, Honor Construction

Caryn Zavala, supervisor, Americas Compensation & Benefits, Amway Corp.

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