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Building & Uplifting A Community | ERNIE C’DEBACA

Building & Uplifting A Community | ERNIE CDEBACA

ERNIE C’DEBACA

President & CEO of THE ALBUQUERQUE HISPANO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE 

When Ernie joined the Chamber, one of his priorities was listening to the needs of his staff resulting in the Hispano Chamber’s first Employee Resource Group. His understanding of business and partnership opportunities beyond traditional borders is a quality that earned him the honor of the 2020 Top CEO awarded by Albuquerque Business First. He places staff in positions that optimize their skills, talents, capabilities, therefore, expanding the horizons of the Hispano Chamber’s programs. Ernie has used his role as a board member of the U.S. Hispanic Hispano Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) to bring awareness to the lack of Hispanics in high leadership positions.  The Hispano Chamber has been very outspoken on issues that are important to the New Mexican business community through Ernie’s prior experience (as Vice President of Governmental Affairs of the largest utility in the State) as he advocates for the New Mexican business community before governmental fora.

While there are other chambers, the Hispano Chamber has a distinctive approach in working with its perceived competition. The mission is to stand by the business community and work towards New Mexico’s economic development and workforce training with programs that scale and grow small businesses. The Hispano Chamber is unique in that it has a Convention and Tourism Department focused on promoting Albuquerque to Hispanic and Native American communities for conventions and tourism. It also has a fully paid for 22,000 sq. ft. campus with computer labs, four conference rooms, and offices rented to the Minority Business Development Agency business center, the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, and SER Jobs for Progress National, Inc. 

The Hispano Chamber works closely with the State’s chambers, government representatives, and associations and groups which support the economic development of New Mexico.

Development & Innovation

New Mexico also has a strong and vibrant Latino entrepreneurial community. Hispanics comprise 48% of New Mexico’s population and are growing. They are an integral part of the efforts that have formed New Mexico and the nation into what it is today. A recent survey showed that Hispanic small business owners — one of the fastest-growing segments of the small business sector — are confident about their business outlook, planning for increased revenue, growth, and expansion, eclipsing their non-Hispanic counterparts by double-digits on all indicators. Hispanic entrepreneurs identify family, community, and employees as their primary sources of motivation and success. Many hope to pass their business on to their children with an eye toward creating generational wealth.

Forty-five years ago, the goal of the Hispano Chamber’s founders was for Latino businesses to take their rightful place on the national stage and ensure they had a fair share of economic assets, market opportunities, and access to capital and contracts. The objective of the founding members was that the Hispanic business community participate in mainstream business across the nation, on the Federal level and for Federal appointments and contracts. While there were numerous successful and notable Latino-owned businesses, the community did not yet have a platform for national Latino business leaders.

During the pandemic, the Hispano Chamber offered targeted webinars on operational issues affecting theirmembers, coordinated feeding the front lines and PPE distribution events, developed virtual webinars and programs for businesses ready to scale up, and collaborated with political leaders to develop a process for businesses to re-open. Its large business members covered the membership dues of the small business members with a program called Buen Vecinos.

Some of the Chamber’s programs include beWellnm, which works with the underserved populations on state health insurance; AVANZAR, an accelerator program to help small scalable Hispanic businesses; a Spanish program for Latina business owners ready to upscale their business; a scholarship program which bridges the education gap with an emphasis on the underserved Hispanic students; and opening a MBDA Business Center to provide workforce training and business consulting services.

Among the many accomplishments of the USHCC, and on which Board Ernie serves, two actions have greatly benefited the Hispanic business community: it made government and corporate America aware that Hispanic entrepreneurial growth was a new force to encourage and nurture, and that the USHCC advocates to any entity that creates barriers to emerging Hispanic businesses.

The Hispano Chamber’s longest partnership is a 30+ year contract with the City of Albuquerque for the Convention and Tourism Department (https://siabq.org/), housed at the Hispano Chamber, to promote the city as a destination for Hispanic and Native American conventions and tourism. Included among the many conventions the Hispano Chamber has brought to Albuquerque, are the National Association for Bilingual Education, the National Hispanic Bar Association, the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Annual Convention, and in 2023, the League of United Latin American Citizens annual meeting. This contract places the Hispano Chamber in the unique position of being the only Hispanic chamber in the country with a Convention and Tourism Department and promoting Albuquerque as a business and leisure destination.

Additionally, the Convention and Tourism Department provides complementary planning services for conferences and conventions and annual local state-wide events. During the pandemic, it collaborated with hotels and historical and cultural sites by creating city and state day and weekend trips, webinars focusing on retail businesses in different industries, promoted local artists, musicians, and storytellers through virtual events to showcase their talents and New Mexico’s cultural and historical characters.

Procurement Series

One of the Hispano Chamber’s most impactful programs is its Procurement Series. The program’s goal is aligned with the Hispano Chamber’s mission, “to promote economic development, enhance economic opportunity, and provide business and workforce education with an emphasis on the Hispanic and small business community in Albuquerque and New Mexico.”  One of these ways to grow and scale their business is through procurement opportunities. However, navigating the steps and processes of the procurement process can be daunting and overwhelming for a small business. The Hispano Chamber has developed training and resources to help small enterprises overcome these hurdles. In 2021, the Hispano Chamber hosted two six-week cohorts, resulting in seven contracts awarded, totaling $2,334,403, and 15 jobs created.

The Hispano Chamber re-launched the Procurement Series in partnership with the MBDA and began with its largest cohort on January 25, 2022.

Building A Future

In March 2022, the Hispano Chamber will launch the Southwest 8(a) Contractors Association (SWaCA), headquartered and housed at the Hispano Chamber campus. SWaCA will be a membership-based organization for companies currently certified by the Small Business Association as an 8(a) company or have graduated from the 8(a) program. SWaCA’s services and programs will cover the Southwest region in the U.S. The purpose is to engage, educate, mentor, and provide business development opportunities for Southwestern minority and disadvantaged businesses seeking contracts with local, state, and federal governments. SWaCA will advocate for 8(a) companies to have the first preference and allocate a percentage of contracts to be awarded to local 8(a) companies and leverage their certifications to enhance the association members’ chances of winning larger contracts by teaming with more minor contracts. SWaCA’s efforts will build on the foundation set by the Procurement Series and continue to keep contract dollars in New Mexico, which will have a tremendous impact on the New Mexico’s economy.

Create New Mexico, a coalition led by the Hispano Chamber, was named by the Economic Development Administration as a finalist in the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The Hispano Chamber was one of the 60 finalists out of 529 submissions. As a finalist, the coalition has been awarded $500,000 to develop a shared vision of New Mexico as a global leader in the creative technology industries, including film and animation, artificial intelligence, visual effects, gaming, digital 3D modeling and printing, virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Things, wearable technologies, and more. These projects are focused on developing an inclusive, sustainable creative technology economic development plan with outreach, programs, and services specifically for under-served populations, including the Hispanic, Native American, and rural communities. The coalition will advance to Phase 2 and compete for up to $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding to develop and scale the creative technology industry in New Mexico in 2022.

ERNIE C’DEBACA Award

"We need to elevate New Mexico to a more nationally competitive level, keep skilled talent in New Mexico, and attract skilled talent to New Mexico. "

ERNIE C’DEBACA

President & CEO of THE ALBUQUERQUE HISPANO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

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