2 min read June 2022 — Invest: was joined by Carlos Liriano, board chair of the North Carolina Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, to discuss how the organization’s services can provide an ever diversified business community more pathways to success. “This is where our network can be so helpful,” he said.
What are the programs and resources the Chamber can provide members to mitigate recent labor shortages?
It’s the biggest complaint we receive. We’re fortunate to see a huge increase of new businesses registering, but we don’t have the labor to support it so there is real competition for talent. In our role, we can promote employment opportunities online. We’ve even had American Airlines reach out seeking more Hispanic workers, so tapping into our network of members presented some great jobs for the community. We have a lot of great services for businesses that we offer for free that otherwise cost hundreds and thousands of dollars. That’s a huge value that we are looking to communicate better moving forward.
How does the Chamber respond to the evolving needs of a shifting demographic?
We are fortunate to have such diversity in our communities. A decade ago, most immigrants looking to start businesses here came from Mexico, but now we are seeing more from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Peru. We have a lot of questions about how to register businesses and apply for an Employer Identification Number. Our partnership with the Mexican and Guatemalan Consulates has provided a lot of great consultation in that regard.
But no matter where they come from, everyone wants the American Dream of owning property right away, so that is another major inquiry. We’ve increased the number of realtors in our membership, and that is evidence of that desire. People will ask us what they need for applying for mortgages and what they need to locate a property to own or rent. There is also a need for legal and medical services, along with translation to navigate various immigration processes. This is where our network can be so helpful, especially lawyers who can support these issues for people. If we don’t have an answer, we’ll find the right person who does.
What types of legislation are you monitoring that may impact your membership?
If you’re not documented, it’s hard to do business and there are a lot less opportunities to thrive. There are a lot of people who’ve been here for many years and there’s no way they can become legal residents. Same with DACA students. We hope one day those who’ve been here for so many years may have the opportunity to legalize their documents. Some people have been here for more than 20 years, and their kids are citizens, so it creates an impossible situation. There should be some middle ground to help these people, because it’ll be way better for everyone overall.
What is your outlook for the Hispanic business community in North Carolina in the coming years?
In a previous banking career, there was a point where I was the only Hispanic branch manager in the entire triangle. Things have changed considerably since then and it’s had a great impact on our businesses. Back in the 1990s, there were about 75,000 Hispanics living in the region. That number has exploded to over 1,000,000, and we are going to keep growing. With more people moving in and buying properties, more companies will move in to tap into that workforce potential. We’re also hoping to incorporate more Consulate support from different nations to support the diversity of our immigrant population.
What are your priorities for the Chamber over the next three to five years?
We will continue to expand our programming as people get more comfortable with post-pandemic life. There will be a continued drive to grow our membership and get boots on the ground to engage the community. We want to educate our businesses and get the information out that they need to succeed. There are great leaders and stakeholders in our community right now, and we want to be more united and get immigration services established for those who need them.
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