Abierto para negocio | NevadaAppeal.com

Abierto para negocio

Becky Bosshart
Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Jose Servin, the executive director of the Camara De Comercio Latino Americana De Carson City, and board member Elvira Diaz talk about the new Latin American Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday afternoon in Diaz's Sierra Bakery.

The Latin American Chamber of Commerce conducts its meetings mostly in Spanish. Members ask questions about the business permitting process and are answered by Latino mentors who have successfully navigated the complicated system.

This is all happening in Carson City, which has an increasing Latino population and a new business group just for local native Spanish speakers.

The chamber is small – membership ranges from 15 to 25 – and young. It filed for state incorporation in November under Camara De Comercio Latino Americana De Carson City and is in the process of earning its federal nonprofit status, the president said.

In a world where the local markets are diversifying to match a global economy, Hispanic businesses are capitalizing on their growing share of the marketplace. The Latin American chamber already has a seven-member board and a core group of committed members, and it has yet to organize a membership drive.

Carson City’s Hispanic population grew by 29 percent from 2000 to 2005, which is 7,300 to 9,400 people, according to the state demographer’s office. The state projects that the Hispanic population will reach 10,400 in 2007, which dramatically outpaces all other minority groups in Carson City.

When the capital city’s total estimated population reaches 61,400 in 2011, those of Latin descent will number 12,700.

Nevada, South Carolina, New York, Rhode Island and Georgia are the states with the fastest rates of growth for Hispanic-owned firms between 1997 and 2002, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report issued this year.

Back when the Latin American organization first formed, it declined to be a part of the larger Carson City Area Chamber of Commerce. Ronni Hannaman, executive director of the Carson City chamber, said an invitation was extended to the small group of Latino business owners, but they declined in order to stay small and personalized.

Hannaman said these diverse businesses are important to the area.

“It’s always wonderful to have more retail and restaurant choices for our residents, thus keeping the important sales tax dollars in Carson City,” she said.

Native Spanish speakers often feel more comfortable asking questions in Spanish and getting a response in Spanish, said William Ramirez, a chamber member. He said the chamber will offer pamphlets in Spanish on such topics as lending and federal grants for small businesses. The problem of miscommunication can be a serious hurdle for some new business owners, even if they are bilingual.

“Maybe the answer for that right now is a separate chamber of commerce,” Ramirez said. “Perhaps a chamber for Latin Americans.”

In her role as state administrator for NxLeveL, a 13-week entrepreneur course, and as a board member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in North Nevada, Kathy Carrico said she’s seen the wisdom of learning in your native language.

“The learning curve is greater in Spanish because it’s their native language,” she said. “When people do learn a second language, speaking is one thing, writing and reading is more challenging. So, in order to get the best education it’s better to learn in your native language.”

Carrico, who is also a training director for Nevada Small Business Development Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, said part of any culture is to retain the native language, and that’s true whether the person is German or Latin American.

The Latin American chamber’s goal is to recruit 90 percent of the Hispanic businesses in Carson City by 2007, said Executive Director Jose Servin.

Servin took the position with the Latin American Chamber of Commerce in September. He and his wife, Leticia, operate Centro Educativo Hispanio, which is a tutoring and leadership school for students learning English, which opened in May 2005.

It’s like any other chamber – except it targets Hispanic business, said Norma Santoyo, the newly elected president. Her election is one example of the experimental nature of this chamber – she’s only opened her first business ever this past week – but her other qualifications stand out.

“I’m very interested in the economic development of the Hispanic population in Carson City,” she said. “That’s also along with a personal passion for business, and I have a degree in business administration from the University of Nevada, Reno.”

Santoyo is also a lifelong Carson City resident. She aspires to work closely with the area chamber of commerce, but other members believe the two chambers will probably meet separately because of the language barrier.

Jose Torres, owner of Master Auto Body, on Highway 50 East, joined the board of directors because he believes in the chamber’s mission: networking and informing the next generation of business owners.

When Torres opened his business in 2003, there was a lot he didn’t know.

“I didn’t even know I was supposed to get a federal tax ID number to pay my taxes,” he said. “It’s important to let the community know the insurance you have to buy. You learn the hard way.”

Now that they have, other Latin Americans will benefit.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

Latin American Chamber of Commerce in Carson City

Time: Meetings are held at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of every month

Where: Sierra Bakery, 1966 Highway 50 East

Purpose: Assist Hispanic businesses in growing with educational seminars in Spanish; conduct new businesses seminars on vital topics, such as business plans and legal requirements; seminars planned for corporations on how to tap into the Hispanic market.

Information: Call Jose Servin, executive director, at 885-0347