Hays County Organization Opens Hispanic-Centric Chamber Chapter

Hays Free Press

Increasing awareness of minority-owned small businesses in Hays County is the primary goal of a newly formed group that also plans to offer commercial-related resources and insight to all.

And, in a larger sense, the Hays County chapter of the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) hopes to offer a voice to Hispanic and Latino entrepreneurs who historically have been underserved.

TAMACC Executive Vice-Chair J.R. Gonzales, Hays County Judge Assistant Anita Collins, Texas Association of Mexican American Chamber of Commerce President Pauline Anton, Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra and Hays County Chief of Staff Alex Villalobos pose for a photo at the kickoff of the TAMACC Hays County chapter in May.

Pauline Anton, president of TAMACC, said starting up the Hays County chapter in May was necessary as Hays County had not had a organization for Hispanic or Latino business owners for several years.

With the Latino population in Hays County approaching, and perhaps surpassing, the 50% mark in the next few years, TAMACC officials felt the time was now to open the chapter.

Since its inception, the Hays County TAMACC chapter has had more than 50 people sign up, including five city council members and several Hays County officials. TAMACC’s membership is open to all and is not limited to just those of Hispanic or Latino descent.

“We wanted to be able to have an organization where they (Hispanics) are able to get together, have like minds and grow and assist each other in leadership,” Anton said.

TAMACC member Alex Villalobos, who also serves as a Kyle City Council member and Hays County’s Chief of Staff, said starting up the chapter creates a level of uniformity among Latino business owners, but also is a way for entrepreneurs to know and understand the needs of small businesses.

Areas of education include leadership, business planning, understanding public policy and municipalities, as well as overall cultural competency and openness with clientele, Villalobos said. TAMACC also plans to offer education on social media awareness and technology seminars to those businesses owners who might need a refresher.

“For those types of businesses to learn their own environment, but also invite others to see how this emerging group is conducting business and influencing business in the county, state and national level, I think it’s an opportunity to learn from each other,” Villalobos said.

Outreach is an equally vital tool TAMACC plans to employ, primarily when it comes to key events such as the upcoming 2020 Census.

Ensuring minority business owners and residents understand the importance of participating in the Census, which is conducted every 10 years, is vital, Anton said. Results from the Census help to determine where resources are needed in the country over the next decade.

TAMACC is also relaying concerns to Washington on fears within the Hispanic community of a possible citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump announced he was forgoing plans for a citizenship question, but opted to use other means to determine the number of undocumented migrants in the country.

Anton said the ultimate goal for the Hays County Chapter is to become its own stand-alone organization complete with a governing body.

TAMACC, which has been in operation for close to 40 years, also hopes to expand its reach to other areas of Texas that might need Latino business representation or have closed Hispanic-centric chambers due to public pressure.

Areas such as east Texas, far west Texas and even Bryan and College Station could be the next place TAMACC lands.

“How we see it is we can go in there and duplicate what has been an experiment here in Hays County,” Anton said.