Grants totaling $150,000 from Bank of America to the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will support internal staff development and ongoing initiatives to support Latino-owned businesses in 2022. Of the funding, a two-year, $50,000 grant will support executive leadership development. The other grant for $100,000 will support the Chamber’s ongoing Transformando West Michigan and Building Bridges through Education initiatives to support Hispanic-owned businesses and grow the Hispanic talent pipeline of college students and connect them with companies and organizations. President Guillermo Cisneros spoke with MiBiz about his 2022 outlook and discuss the funding awards.
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What will the grant funding do for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce?
This gives us some confidence and trust that our work is being noticed, and that the support that we have been providing to Latino businesses and Latinx talent is being noticed and encouraged by our partners.
The Neighborhood Champion Award will connect (the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber) to national organizations, national leadership and all of the CEOs who play in the same arena trying to work around innovation and implement different initiatives that support their communities — and from executives from Bank of America as well. I’m excited to create new relationships on the national level which will open doors for this organization and for the Latino community in the years to come.
Can you leverage the Bank of America grants to generate additional support in the community?
Every time that an organization supports and partners with the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, it allows us to show funders and others that the work we’re doing is getting results because organizations are trusting us and are really investing in a transformation and a change for this community. It will definitely help us to leverage and showcase that with support so we can do more things.
What’s the biggest opportunity in the new year for your organization?
We want to continue to grow. The opportunity that we have is to continue to support Latino businesses and Latino college students. We are restructuring our organization in a way so we are building capacity that we need to support our community, but that means we continue to need resources. This work can’t be done without financial resources, so the challenge will always be fundraising for our work so we can really put initiatives in place that will support our Latino community.
What do you see emerging in the Latino community that will get more attention and generate more conversation in 2022 and beyond?
As more people talk about the Census, companies and organizations will realize that we have an incredible opportunity to really prepare the Latino community for what’s coming in the next 25 years. There is a change in demographics happening. The growth and results from the 2020 Census in this region came mainly from the Latino community. We are bringing that voice to the different tables. I am banking on the next generation of Latinos. We need to make sure they are prepared, that they have the skill set they need to become successful in the future, either in trade or in college. But we need for our community to be prepared for what is coming. The economy will need all of the workforce and the right talent in place.
What worries you?
I continue to hear rhetoric about immigrants. Just negative talk about what we bring to this country. I think that as we move ahead to midterm elections that we’ll again see rhetoric against people like me, immigrants. I think that as we continue to work hard and support the economy and be responsible, we’re going to overcome that. I just hope people learn the lesson that we can be exposed to dangerous rhetoric that doesn’t benefit our communities and our society.
What makes you hopeful for the new year?
I think the Latino community is realizing its potential, and I’m also hopeful that a group of funders and very thoughtful business leaders are trying to move things around and push through initiatives for everyone in this community. I am part of a current initiative that is called Opportunity for All. The initiative is being pushed by serious founders and business leaders in the city. That makes me very hopeful because we need to make sure everyone in this community — no matter their ethnicity or their language barriers — has opportunity.