By Tracy Correa
The Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – which PG&E has supported for more than a decade — received two honors at a recent statewide convention of Hispanic chambers.
Dora Westerlund, president and CEO of the Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber, was named Executive of the Year by the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce at the organization’s annual convention held Aug. 15-17 in San Diego. Westerlund was singled out from a field of about 30 other Hispanic chamber executives. (Not all 65 Hispanic chambers have full time staff executives).
The Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber also was named Regional Chamber of the Year. The honor was for the Central Region, which covers about a dozen chambers from Chico to Bakersfield.
Business programs build Chamber
Julian Canete, president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, praised Westerlund for her leadership.
“The Executive of the Year Award is given to an individual who is an example for all the Hispanic chamber presidents,” said Canete. “Dora has worked diligently in building her chamber with programs like the micro-loan program and business incubator.”
Westerlund said she is humbled by the recent awards. However, she said she couldn’t have done it alone and that PG&E’s financial support has been crucial to the chamber’s success and its efforts to grow local businesses.
“I got this recognition, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support from PG&E,” said Westerlund. She said the utility’s financial support helped the chamber complete the Downtown Business Hub building.
PG&E supports Chamber’s Business Hub
PG&E is a longtime partner of the Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber and its business incubator.
“As PG&E continues to focus on restoring the economic vitality of California, our partnership with the Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has played a key role in doing that in the Central Valley,” said Greg Pruett, PG&E’s senior vice president of corporate affairs. “Under Dora Westerlund’s leadership, the Chamber has been active in supporting and growing strong, diverse businesses with bright futures in the Fresno area.”
“We congratulate Dora and the chamber on these well-deserved honors,” Pruett said.
Last year, the utility contributed $80,000 to the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation, the non-profit arm of Chamber of Commerce, to help support economic development programs, workshops and classes for startup and existing businesses covering a range of business, financial and legal topics. The business incubator – named the Downtown Business Hub — offers advice, training, office space, workshops, financial assistance, and other services to grow job-creating startup companies.
Supporting businesses, creating jobs
Since the Downtown Business Hub opened in June of 2011, more than 600 businesses (400 of them start-ups) have received assistance. As a result, more than 250 jobs have been retained or created.
Also under Westerlund’s leadership, the award-winning Micro-Loan Program has provided more than 150 loans totaling $3 million, giving businesses the necessary capital to succeed. The assistance has resulted in more than $12.6 million being reinvested in the local economy. Additionally, 3,150 start-up and existing businesses have received technical assistance and more than 500 jobs have been created as a result of the micro-loan program.
The assistance offered by the chamber has helped jumpstart businesses such as The Loft, a 10,500-square-foot events center launched by two sisters.
This year, PG&E contributed $75,000 to the Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber to provide additional business assistance and workshops aimed at creating local jobs.
Email Tracy Correa at email@example.com.