New North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce Director of Business Inclusion Aims to Reach Hispanic Businesses
The North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce is aiming to expand its reach to underrepresented communities with its new Director of Business Inclusion, Jorge Gonzalez.
Gonzalez joined the Chamber of Commerce in the newly-formed role early this year to lead the chamber’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. He is the first Latino to serve the NLR Chamber of Commerce.
“I feel like the role was built for me. A lot of what I’m doing plays well with my passions, experiences, and what I feel comfortable doing,” said Gonzalez.
“Plus, as a Mexican-American, having my eyes on both countries and cultures has helped me better understand our community’s needs, and my experience has shaped me to provide that extra added value to the role.”
Gonzalez will be helping Latino, and other POC businesses familiarize themselves with the Chamber of Commerce and the tools available to them. He said that one of the main strategies Gonzalez has in place is to merge community building with business objectives.
One of his main initiatives is the minority business accelerator committee, which aims to create events tailored to the interests of minority communities.
The first out of four events Gonzalez organized was held in mid-August under the concept of “merienda,” or afternoon snack, with the idea of merging the cultural aspect of Latino culture with the added value of networking.
“Meriendas are a wholesome experience from my childhood growing up. I remember going to Mexico to visit my grandma and sitting on the porch during sundown, and we would have bread and coffee or coke, and we would just sit down and hang out,” said Gonzalez.
While the event was focused on Hispanic and Latino businesses, it was open to everybody. Around 85 people registered for the merienda. All four events will follow the same structure of merging a cultural experience with a business concept.
“It feels good to let people know there’s a space where they can talk about business and share their current dilemmas in their occupation. It’s great to have these focused conversations because, at the end of the day, you don’t know what information could be of value to you,” said Gonzalez.
His objective is to break through cultural barriers and invite minority business owners to a space where they can get the necessary information and tools. One of the main aspects of Gonzalez’s role is to show minority communities that the Chamber of Commerce is there to support them and help them reach their goals.
“My goal is to show a new side of our organization because before, there was nobody who spoke their language or looked like them,” said Gonzalez. “I’m actually the first Latino to work at this chamber, and I don’t want to be the last, so it’s important to me to make sure I’m doing the role justice.”
The Chamber of Commerce holds networking events every first Friday of the month, with guest speakers sharing their trajectory and experiences as successful business owners. The FYI luncheons also have sponsorship opportunities for businesses who want to support the event and showcase their business. In addition, business owners can reach out directly to any of the Chamber of Commerce staff members, including Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was born and raised in Texas and moved to Arkansas in 2005. After graduating with a degree in Political Science and a minor in International Studies, he joined AmeriCorps for a year. Gonzalez spent some time traveling through Europe. Before accepting the Chamber of Commerce role, he worked as a project manager assistant in multiple construction companies.