By Bob Highfill
STOCKTON – Delegates, small business owners, entrepreneurs, corporate representatives and policymakers will convene in Stockton for the 40th Annual California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce (CHCC) State Convention. From August 21-23, some 2,000 people from throughout the state are expected to gather for meetings, seminars and workshops at the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel and Stockton Arena. Key topics will include international trade, Hispanic millennials, Latina empowerment, procurement and corporate diversity and inclusion.
Stockton was selected to host the convention, in part, because the city’s mission fits with this year’s theme, “Reinvent Opportunities.”
“As Stockton reinvents itself, it’s kind of how the chamber is now as well,” said Stockton native Julian Caňete, President and Chief Executive Officer of the CHCC at a news conference at the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel. “It’s not just about the chamber and it being our biggest event. It’s really about can we do something to move the needle to make Stockton one of these destination cities.”
Bob Gutierrez, the CHCC’s Vice Chairman of the Board, said the Hispanic chamber has made a concerted effort to hold the state convention in smaller markets that contribute in big ways to the state’s economy. San Joaquin County has more than 750,000 residents and approximately 242,000 wage and salaried jobs, according the county’s economic forecast. In recent years, the convention has been held in Riverside and Sonoma.
“We felt we needed to leave a better positive economic impact in our local communities and for our small businesses,” said Gutierrez, founder of BG Strategies, a business consulting firm in Stockton. “That’s why we’re here in Stockton. We’re really excited about being able to leave that impact here in Stockton.”
Small business owners will have opportunities to take advantage of counselors from important sectors, such as small business loans, technical assistance and training, legal expertise and business plan reviews.
“We’re also looking at providing our educational tracks,” Gutierrez said. “We’re going to focus a ton on economic development.”
Gutierrez said opportunity zone projects in the Stockton area and elsewhere in the state will be highlighted.
“We’ll also be looking at how housing projects are coming together, whether they are affordable or market-rate, and the programs and services provided,” he said.
Gutierrez said successes with food incubator programs will be discusses and examined.
Attendees will have opportunities to explore San Joaquin County and enjoy restaurants, hotels, museums, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, golf, Lodi wine country and downtown. Caňete said he hopes participants share positive impressions of the area with their constituents and perhaps attract more convention and tourism business to the city and county.
“We look forward to sharing the best of Stockton,” said Wes Rhea, CEO of Visit Stockton. “We want to get the delegates out into the community. We want all these corporate investors and business owners to see what we’re doing here in Stockton and maybe we’ll get some great investment out of that.”
New service between Stockton Metropolitan Airport and Los Angeles International Airport has been moved up to accommodate the convention. United Airlines’ regional carrier, SkyWest, will begin twice-daily flights between Stockton Metro and LAX beginning August 16, which is earlier than the original start date, August 21. Stockton Metro already offers flights through Allegiant Airlines to Las Vegas, San Diego and Phoenix.
“The Hispanic Chamber came to us and asked if we could contact United to see if it was even possible to move up the starting date,” said Russell Stark, director of Stockton Metropolitan Airport. “We contacted United and explained the event and what it meant to the area and they were more than happy to move the date to August 16 to facilitate transportation for the convention.”
Amtrak Rail Service and ACE Train are offering 50 percent fare discounts to chamber members during the convention.
The CHCC represents the interests of more than 800,000 Hispanic owned businesses throughout California that generate more than $98 billion in annual revenue.
“The Hispanic community is poised to set the direction for all of California,” Caňete said. “When you look at the state legislature, the Latino Caucus has more members than the Republican Caucus. The question is what are you going to do with that to direct California hopefully in the right direction? For the Hispanic community, there are a number of growing opportunities.”