Resilience & Recovery
A Community in Action
Just like every year, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana (HCCL) began 2020 with a unified vision and mission: to build a thriving community of Hispanic businesses and professionals, in which everyone has the tools necessary to achieve maximum success.
Now, in the wake of a global pandemic that has dramatically altered the business climate and has left no industry untouched, the Chamber’s mission hasn’t changed. In fact, it has only become stronger. The HCCL has emerged as one of the strongest and most reliable beacons of information, providing crucial resources and updates to ensure that every individual — and every business — is positioned for recovery and sustainability.
Virtual learning seminars like the annual Healthcare, Technology & Innovation Summit have provided valuable education on field advancements that will continue to affect how we live, work and receive care. Job fairs and digital literacy programs put career opportunities in front of those who need them most, while simultaneously training participants to succeed in a modern workforce.
The common thread between these and countless other HCCL programs and initiatives is a steadfast focus on uplifting vulnerable and underserved communities. Those within such demographics have always been aware of the wide margin of disadvantage separating minority-owned and operated businesses from the full breadth of opportunities, careers and legislative roles available in our nation.
But the Hispanic community is the fastest-growing minority population in the country, and the contributions of our skilled workers, thinkers and leaders are helping to usher in a new era of prosperity. With the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana helping to unite communities through industry, commerce and trade, disparities can be overcome, divides can be bridged, and a brighter future can become a reality for all.
Workforce Heroes Program
When COVID-19 displaced thousands of workers statewide, it disrupted an historic wave of prosperity for the Latino workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in early 2020 that rates of unemployment among Latino workers aged 16 years and over were around 4%, an impressive rate that began in late 2018 and remained steady through February 2020. It was, at the time, the lowest unemployment rate the community had ever achieved.
By March, still in the pandemic’s early days, that number had increased to 6%. By April, it had reached 18%, the highest unemployment rate among any ethnic group in the nation, compared to 16.7% unemployment among African Americans at the same date. This is largely due to the widespread crippling of industries that serve as the primary employers of Hispanic and other minority workers: restaurants, bars, hotels and, most significantly, building services, which NPR reports is constituted of more than 40% Hispanic workers.
It was clear that immediate and deliberate action to restore the livelihoods of the Hispanic workforce and their families was of the utmost importance. Luckily, being there when it matters most is what makes the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana such an invaluable resource. To help offset the effects of unemployment, HCCL announced its Workforce Heroes Program, which placed impacted individuals into jobs for six to eight weeks in order to stimulate the economy and provide necessary relief to workers.
“We are grateful to be able to make a small difference for local families impacted by this crisis,” says Mayra Pineda, President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana. “HCCL recognizes the importance of uplifting our hardworking community and providing opportunities to advance professionally and scale businesses.”
Made possible by a partnership with Delta Administrative Services, the program had immediate effects for approved applicants, like Anabel Gonzales, a bilingual customer service professional who found herself looking for a job during the pandemic. While participating in the HCCL Foundation’s digital literacy program, Gonzales’ instructor mentioned the Workforce Heroes Program, and she was eager to participate and put her skills to work.
“This program has been of great help both professionally and economically due to the current situation that we are going through in the country,” says Gonzales. “This program is an excellent opportunity to be able to integrate into the workforce.”
Through the program, Gonzales was able to secure a customer service position with Metairie Bank. She says that she hopes other participants will benefit similarly and will take full advantage of the resources and opportunities made available by HCCL.
“This program has been an excellent way of supporting our community,” Gonzales says. “Thanks to the members of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for the opportunity to be part of this initiative.”
David Lawrence, President of Delta Administrative Services, said that lending support to the Workforce Heroes Program — and to the HCCL overall — is their way of giving back to a community that is so active in advancing the region.
“We are proud to be able to give back and help the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana achieve a greater scale of relief for those in need,” Lawrence says. “The HCCL’s efforts help the Hispanic community engage and grow with a network of progressive people, organizations, government agencies and financial institutions. We felt that the best way to help create wealth within the HCCL and this community was through this Workforce Heroes initiative.”
Lawrence emphasized that all workers and businesses share the same goals of economic growth, so all people and communities should receive the same encouragement and resources.
“Everyone has something to offer,” Lawrence says. “Working together as a community will allow us to design our future moving forward.”
Mariposa Grants Program
Even before the pandemic began, renowned jewelry designer Cristy Cali and acclaimed Cajun musician Amanda Shaw teamed up with a mission to support the Hispanic community through a special jewelry collaboration.
“We decided that the collection would represent transformation and growth,” says Cali, of the collection’s signature butterfly shape. “You’re not supposed to stay the same throughout life.”
Drawing on each other’s unique talents and parallel experiences, like their shared Guatemalan heritage, Cali and Shaw produced a new collection called Mariposas Moradas, which was set to launch in Spring 2020. A partnership with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana seemed a natural fit to help advance their common goal, as Cali and Shaw are both long-standing partners and supporters of the Chamber.
“Since Amanda and I have so much in common with our roots, we came up with the idea of raising money for the Hispanic Chamber,” says Cali. “We wanted to empower the members with resources to start their own businesses or to help them become more business savvy, whether through learning programs or sharing social media strategies with them.”
Of course, those plans were soon disrupted, but with all the key pieces already designed and produced, the duo realized they could still achieve their goal of community support. Although in-person learning and training sessions wouldn’t be possible in light of new safety protocols, Shaw, Cali and HCCL President Mayra Pineda came up with another way to make an impact with the Mariposas Moradas collection.
“We still wanted to make a difference, so we had another meeting to discuss how to pivot and make it meaningful,” Cali says. “Mayra came up with the idea of a Mariposa Grant, which is still in alignment with our original goals.”
Now, proceeds from the new collection, which has officially launched on Cali’s website, will go toward grants for small businesses within HCCL’s membership. The initial vision might have changed, but the partnership is just as powerful and now bears an even stronger purpose. Cali says she and Shaw will continue to look for ways to expand the collection, hopefully resulting in even more support for the Chamber and the Hispanic workforce.
“The Chamber really has helped people through this pandemic, including me,” Cali says. “The experience has been scary, and even though we might feel lost, we’re getting through it together.”
Onward and Upward
Through these initiatives and more, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana is deepening its roots in our state and shaping more lives than ever before. Not only that, but community partners from a wide range of industries are also proving their dedication to furthering HCCL’s vision for an equitable and diverse business climate.
In these next pages of our 2020 Magazine + Directory, you’ll meet some of the Hispanic business owners who are innovating, adapting and creating new opportunities (see page 10); you’ll meet leaders in both business and legislative arenas who serve as role models for future generations (page 13); and you’ll learn about the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana Foundation’s unrivaled efforts to equip everyone with the skills of a modern workforce (page 17).
The resilience of the Hispanic business community has certainly been put to the test in 2020, but through collective action and a unified effort to empower every individual, there’s no limit to how far we go next.