The Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is creating a full-time executive director post as a way to meet the needs of Utah's growing Latino business community.

"We've reached the time when we really have to take our chamber to the next level, with a person working on the chamber's mission full-time," said Robert Rendon, chairman of the board of directors and community reinvestment director for Zions Bank.

"We want somebody from here, who's familiar with our community here," Rendon said. Another requirement: fluency in both English and Spanish.

Rendon said the chamber has grown from 20 members three years ago to about 200 members today. The chamber also has more than 20 corporate sponsors.

Rendon said based on the last census, there were 798 Hispanic businesses in two west Salt Lake City ZIP codes alone. And some of the UHCC's members are non-Hispanic companies looking to court more business from Hispanics, he said.

Joe Reyna, deputy mayor of Ogden City and a member of the Hispanic chamber's board of directors, said the new executive director's number one duty will be to increase membership, and "make sure we're helping them out with business growth. The other one is helping us get more corporate sponsors."

Advertising for the post started Sunday and applications are due by July 30, Rendon said. He indicated the new executive director should be announced soon thereafter, and an assistant could be hired by the end of the year.

The new post isn't the only change at UHCC. For starters, Rendon's title of board chairman used to be president.

The Hispanic chamber has started a new nonprofit foundation which will serve as UHCC's educational branch and sponsor scholarships for Hispanic students and business owners. So far that foundation has raised $12,500, Rendon said. He said the foundation will hopefully be able to award its first scholarship this December.

The Hispanic chamber will also be moving into a new Redwood Road office, donated by Zions Bank, sometime in October, Rendon said.

It has a new affiliate, the Ogden Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the South Central Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Utah County could soon become its second affiliate, Rendon said.

Tony Yapias, director of the state Office of Hispanic Affairs, said the chamber's growth is a reflection of the state's Latino community, which more than doubled in the last decade. Yapias said Utah's Latinos spend $3 billion annually.

Yapias said businesses, thinking of the bottom line, are looking for ways to better serve Hispanic consumers.

"That's all great, that's what we want," he said. "This is a trend nationwide."

For additional information see www.utahhcc.com.


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com