The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) casts a wide net, encompassing members of radically different backgrounds and drastically different industries. It’s a beautiful thing, but it also presents major challenges, especially when preparing for its annual national convention, the largest gathering of Hispanic businesses in the country. Each fall, USHCC’s CEO, Javier Palomarez, and his team strive to provide an educational, informative experience to each attendee. The challenges lie in catering to such a diverse crowd.
The conference’s CEO Circle Panel is proving to be a great resource. Debuted several years ago, it features prominent CEOs who engage in a conversation with a guest moderator. At the 35th national convention, held in Salt Lake City, September 21-23, the president and CEO of Utah’s Zions First National Bank, A. Scott Anderson, spoke to Steve Clemons, Washington editor-at-large for Atlantic and National Journal.
The panel, which is one of the convention’s most popular events, was Palomarez’s attempt to provide the convention’s attendees with some of the wisdom he was able to tap into during his more than 20 years in corporate America.
“Getting time with CEOs to pick their brains was a very precious thing,” Palomarez says of his own development. “I valued that time, and it helped me develop a better understanding of the business, branding, and economic trends that implicated our industry. It was educational on many levels.” On the flip side, the panel allows USHCC members to hear what CEOs are looking for. Both the speaker and the members walk away with a better understanding of each other’s needs.
The CEOs who participate are never told which topics to discuss, but inevitably, Palomarez says, they all touch on the importance of Hispanic businesses and consumers. “It’s very heartening,” he says, “for the USHCC and for our members to hear CEOs of major organizations recognize the importance of Hispanic-owned business.”
In order to keep with his goal of making the premiere event beneficial to a diverse crowd, Palomarez seeks out CEOs who vary in age, industry, and gender, though the person chosen must be a seasoned CEO who, ideally, works on a global scale.
For the 35th annual convention, Palomarez was excited to snag A. Scott Anderson for the panel. Not only is Anderson headquartered in Salt Lake City, he also has more than two decades of experience. “It was great to have a hometown perspective, and given his experience in his industry, we knew he would give an enlightening, educational talk,” Palomarez says. “More personally, I hold Scott in very high regard. He is a very humble, decent man.”
Palomarez feels the same way about Utah’s governor, Gary Herbert. Herbert has embraced diversity and is welcoming of different cultures in the state, which is part of the reason USHCC chose Salt Lake City as this year’s conference site. The other major reason is that Utah is considered one of the best states to do business, according to recent findings by Forbes.
“This is a state that truly embraces people, that recognizes their contributions,” Palomarez says. “They’re doing amazing things in this state. Wall Street Journal recently reported that it’s the number one economy in the country, before New York. The economy has done well because the state has embraced the Hispanic population, which has grown by 82 percent in 10 years. Hispanics are contributing billions, and the governor, rather than relying on emotion, has embraced these facts,” the USHCC CEO explains proudly. “USHCC is inspired by the state of Utah, and we’re honored to bring our convention here.”