Hispanic chamber has been serving local business community since 1972 – Stockton Record

Members, family and friends of the San Joaquin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce gathered — after two years apart — to kick off their 50th-year celebrations and their annual Business Awards and Installation Luncheon at the Wine & Roses hotel in Lodi on March 25. 
“We are very excited because we are celebrating our 50th year of providing services here in San Joaquin County,” Lisa Vela, the chamber’s CEO, said.  
“We’ve been around for 50 years — a lot of people don’t know that — but we’ve been doing work for 50 years,” said Eddie Lira, the chamber’s president.  
The chamber was established in 1972 and provides businesses help with starting/opening, accessing capital, business plan development and member networking opportunities through programs, workshops and special events.
Laughs, greetings, hugs and words of appreciation were exchanged both in Spanish and English as soon as doors opened at 11:30 a.m. The ballroom buzzed with energy and admiration among the reunited community.  
“I am glad I am finally able to see these folks again! It’s been two years and it’s (reunion) been a longtime coming,” said Jose Rodriguez, president and CEO of community-based organization El Concilio. 
“We are very fortunate to have the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce,” and the county positioned within, such as through the chairman of the board, Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, who lives in Stockton, Vela said.   
“That means that although we are growing and developing here in San Joaquin County and assisting our members, now we have a voice within the state of California,” Vela said. “That is very important at the legislative table but also with larger agencies that can now see the disparities and inequities that have occurred.” 
Gutierrez addressed guests twice, first when accepting a posthumous award on behalf of his father, Dr. John James Gutierrez, and later for his recognition as part of the board members concluding their terms. He has served on the chamber’s board since 2010 and is a past chamber president.   
To the current Hispanic Chamber’s board, “you guys are all family, we’ve all grown up together,” Gutierrez said. “It is an honor to be on this board … if you’ve been a part of it you know it’s a commitment, it’s a passion.” 
“It’s an important and responsible task to be in the positions that we are as leaders in this community,” Gutierrez said. “It is something that we should not lose sight of, but it is something we should press forward with and do with all that we have each day that we have.” 
“It’s been written that the purpose of life is to have a life of purpose, and I truly believe that,” volunteer of the year awardee Steve Morales said. “I’m so thankful for this award.” 
San Joaquin County Supervisor Kathy Miller and Rodriguez were among luncheon attendees supporting Morales. “I’ve worked with him on community events for 25 years and he is so dedicated to the community, and it was really a pleasure to see him honored today,” Miller said. 
“Steve Morales was once on the Board of Directors of El Concilio,” Rodriguez said. “He is a longtime community activist, volunteer and I’m really glad to see him honored.” 
“In business, it’s about relationships and when you can build relationships, you can engage with people — who you are, where you are, that you’re local and offering services … then us business owners look to that as an advantage,” business owner and San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti said.  
Vela recognized the Hispanic Chamber’s relationship with the Central Valley Asian-American Chamber of Commerce, the African American Chamber of Commerce of San Joaquin County, and the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce. “They are great, strong partners,” she said. 
These chambers’ headquarters are based in Stockton and have a countywide outreach. “All the chambers are critically important for our small and local businesses,” Miller said. 
Reflecting on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, “the city of Stockton could not have been effective with reaching out and supporting our business community without our chambers of commerce stepping up and answering the call to help us program some of the fundings that impacted resources and businesses,” Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln said.  
“What I appreciate about all chambers of commerce is that they demonstrated that they don’t operate in silos, they work together,” Lincoln said. “They all work together to meet the needs of the community and they demonstrated that throughout the pandemic.” 
“It’s a milestone for the (Hispanic) chamber, celebrating 50 years in service to our community,” he said. “We are really thankful for their investment and the work that they’ve done for the city of Stockton and the entire county.” 
“Leadership is shown by the actions taken to bring success to others,” Patti said. “That’s exactly what the chamber does.” 
Interested in becoming involved and/or joining the San Joaquin County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce? They can be reached online through the chamber’s social media channels, website (sjchispanicchamber.com) and by calling their office at (209) 943-6117. “There’s someone always answering our phones, usually me,” Vela said. 
Record reporter Laura Diaz covers social justice and societal issues. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @laurasdiaz_Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.
CORRECTION: March 29, 2022
Dr. John James Gutierrez was incorrectly identified in the print and initial online version of this story. The error has been corrected.


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