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Westchester Hispanic groups establish formal partnership.

In a move to meet the needs of Westchester's rapidly growing Hispanic community, the leaders of The Westchester County Association (WCA) and the Westchester Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (WHCC) announced plans to form a formal partnership.

The historic merger, which is expected to be approved by the Boards of the WCA and WHCC, will create the county's largest business organization for Hispanic business owners, professionals and entrepreneurs.

Members of the WHCC will enjoy full benefits of WCA membership, including participation in committees and representation in the advocacy and economic vitality issues and initiatives that have earned the WCA's reputation as a highly effective advocate and catalyst for change for Westchester's business community.

"This timely union dramatically underscores the emergence of the Hispanic business community as a major contributor to the county's economic vitality," noted William M. Mooney, Jr., President of the WCA.

"Now, they will have the representation and voice that their significant numbers deserve.

"Additionally, our leadership ranks will significantly benefit with the addition of other Hispanic leaders who will help us to accurately reflect and support the goals of this dynamically growing group." Al Gutierrez, president of the WHCC and vice president, CB Richard Ellis, explained that the partnership would "make it possible to deliver programs and services to a business sector that is experiencing exponential growth. By leveraging each other's resources, we are going to create a powerful platform for the Hispanic business community, one neither organization would be able to create alone," he said.

Founded in 1988, the Hispanic Chamber's key objectives have been to advocate, promote and facilitate the success of Hispanic businesses. "Organizationally, ours has been a modest operation with no full or part-time staff, with volunteers taking responsibility for running just about everything," Mr. Gutierrez explained. Going forward, a full-time bi-lingual Director will be named to manage day-to-day operations of the WHCC.

The two organizations cited the following national and county demographic facts and trends that led to the decision to form the alliance:

* Nationally, there were 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses in 2002, up 31 percent from 1997, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

* In the 2000 U.S. Census, Westchester's Hispanic population reached 15.6% (144,124) of the county's total, representing a 68% increase from the 1990 Census.

* The 2002 U.S. Census Bureau identified 8,356 Hispanic-owned businesses in Westchester.

* In the WHCC 2002 survey of 513 Hispanic businesses, more than 75% were in business for 10 or less years and 53% had been started within the last five years.

* The first and second largest business sectors identified in the WHCC survey were retail (52%) and the service sector (41.5%).

* Nationally, by 2007, 1 out of 10 small businesses will be Hispanic-owned, according to an IRS report.

Gutierrez noted that his organization had experienced over the last five years an increase in the number of Hispanic professional businesses serving both the "organizational needs of the growing small business community and the personal needs of the increasingly successful Hispanic business owners," adding, "There has been a significant spike in the number of Hispanic professionals in the areas of finance, wealth management and insurance."

Ale Frederico, chair of the Board of the WHCC and vice president of Commerce Bank, stated that the partnership would bring together the best of both worlds. "The WCA offers Hispanic business people the best infrastructure to grow their businesses and to be heard while our organization has been taking the pulse of the Hispanic market since day one when it started to emerge. Each of us brings complementary strengths to each other."

The WCA membership totals about 650 and the Hispanic organization has a data base comprising 1,300 professionals.

"Our members are a mirror image of the WCA's membership," stated Ms. Federico. "Most of them are small businesses--professionals and entrepreneurs--who have become the largest and fastest growing sector in the county."

Mooney called the decision for the two organization to combine forces a "defining moment in the history of Westchester's business community. We are truly creating an unprecedented and creative force for change."

Founded in 1950, The Westchester County Association is the preeminent business membership organization in Westchester.

It is committed to business advocacy, economic vitality, and to providing a strong and clear voice for the interests of Westchester businesses on a regional, national and international level.
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jul 12, 2006
Words:724
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