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Utah Hosts Largest Ever U.S. Meeting of Hispanic Business Leaders

Andrea Smardon

The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce held its annual convention in Salt Lake City this week. The organization's leader says Utah may seem like a counterintuitive choice, but it has proved to be a success.

Utah may be sparsely populated, and it may not be the most ethnically diverse state in the country, but the President of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Javier Palomarez was clearly pleased with the turnout.

“This is officially the largest gathering of Hispanic business leaders in American history,” Palomarez announced at a luncheon Tuesday. He estimated that 7300 people came to the convention, with over 185 major corporations represented. He said Governor Gary Herbert was instrumental to bringing the convention to Utah. In his introduction, he called Herbert an iconic American leader.

“Gracias, amigo Javier,” Governor Herbert began his speech at the convention. “Bienvenidos! Welcome to one and all.”

Later, Palomarez told KUER he was impressed by Utah leaders’ approach to immigration – from civic and religious leaders, to the business community.

“I was very intrigued by the compassion and decency with which they looked at the immigrant community,” Palomarez said. “But in Utah, it was also a very logical and very kind of fiscally responsible way to treat a community as an asset, rather than a challenge or a problem.”

Jorge Fierro is the owner of Frida Bistro and Rico Brand in Utah. He says the convention has provided validation for him as a Latino entrepreneur. It’s also helpful in a more practical way.

“My dream is to grow this into a nationwide business,” Fierro says. “So to me, it’s being able to get together to the right people and to be exposed. The exposure is incredible.”

Palomarez estimates there have been 3000 unique meetings with business owners and large corporate buyers at the convention. 

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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