Laura Oldaker

 Laura Oldaker is the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman

It has been said that the road of opportunity is paved with change. A good example is the old Hotel Arizona, which graced Tucson for over two decades, and after seven years of closed doors, it reopened earlier this month, reborn as the Center of Opportunity, a shelter for the homeless, extending a hand to those who may otherwise be sleeping under a bridge. 

This life changing initiative for Tucson is due to the generosity of the HSL Foundation, led by Humberto and Czarina Lopez.

Mr. and Mrs. Lopez, longtime friends of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, have contributed to Tucson’s economy, recovery and growth though their business ventures and philanthropy. In 2015, the HSL Foundation donated $120,000 toward grants awarded to small businesses to promote their growth and propel Tucson’s economy. 

This type of selflessness is shared by many other private individuals, educational institutions and business organizations in our area, such is the case of The University of Arizona, Tucson Unified School District and other sponsors who supported and sponsored young entrepreneurs though the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a program by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber Foundation. The program works with young students, ranging from 11 to 17, to develop and present their business and product development ideas and pitch them during the final event. Several awardees are selected to receive funding to develop their idea and advance to the national competition. This year, two young Tucsonans, Esther Zazueta and Armando Coronado, attended the national competition in Rochester, New York last month. These bright and courageous youngsters will continue to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, the YEA convocation opens up each year in the late summer and classes start in the fall. For more information on the YEA program visit tucsonhispanicchamber.org/young-entrepreneurs-academy.html. 

And while we are on the topic of opportunity, some of you know that the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has been through many changes for the most part of 2018 and during 2019, our 30th anniversary year. Led by our indomitable board of directors, our chamber administrator, Isabel Georgelos, and our phenomenal staff, we continue to transition into a renewed organization, re-inventing ourselves, jumping through obstacles and challenges. And for the sake of transparency, we admit, some of them, self-inflicted.  Our failures become lessons learned and challenge us to be bold, innovative and good stewards of our members’ resources and our community. 

During this transition, we have received much support and help from fellow organizations such as the Tucson Metro Chamber, led by power team Amber Smith and Barbi Reuter, the Southern Arizona Chamber of Commerce Association, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as our members and corporate sponsors. We would be remiss if we failed to mention our chamber ambassadors, who are most supportive group the THCC has ever seen. This amazing group of individuals are entrepreneurs and business executives who support our members with ribbon cuttings, events and connections. If you are interested in joining our Ambassador Committee, please contact Javier Guillen at 620-0005. 

Our chamber is alive and well, or at least on the path to recovery. We are gearing up to conduct an executive search late this summer and into the fall; and we are excited about our signature events coming up, such as Head Over Heels Southern AZ Women’s Business Conference on Sept. 17, Hispanic Market Outlook, our Annual Noche de Exitos Gala, and 40 Under 40 Awards. For information on Sponsorship of these events, please contact isabel@tucsonhispanicchamber.org. 

A sincere congratulations to our former President and CEO, Lea Márquez-Peterson, who was recently appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey to the Arizona Corporation Commission, making her the first Latina serving in a state office ever. Lea continues to pave the road for many Latinas, especially those who work in male dominated industries, and for those who want to serve in any type of public capacity. 

In change, especially the type of change we might see as negative, exists opportunity. At the chamber, it has taken several months to discern and identify.Many of our own personal mistakes can lead to triumph; it may just takes a second look. Keep moving forward!   

 Laura Oldaker is the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman