Six Ethnic Chambers Seek Shared Space to Cut Costs
Six ethnic chambers of commerce and business associations plan to join forces under one roof-a move that is hoped to cut costs and give them greater advocacy power.
The six organizations-the 210-member Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Minnesota, the 150-member Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce, the 100-member Minnesota Hmong Chamber of Commerce, the 90-member Vietnamese American Business Association, the 80-member Chinese American Business Association of Minnesota, and the 60-member Pan-African Business Alliance-are members of the Minnesota Multi-Ethnic Chambers of Commerce Joint Council.The Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce is also a member of the joint council but will not join its sister members in relocating.
“We've known for some time that there's more power in numbers-greater voice,” Val Vargas, president of the Hispanic chamber, told Twin Cities Business. By pooling their efforts rather than competing for limited resources, the six organizations hope to have an easier time capturing governmental and private funds and advocating on behalf of their members.
The six organizations are looking for a 4,000- to 6,000-square-foot, ground-floor space that has 70 parking spaces. Working with the Minneapolis office of CresaPartners, they are now looking at nine spaces along the Highway 280 corridor between Minneapolis and St. Paul-an area that they like because it's centrally located and it isn't already known for one specific ethnic community, Vargas said.
The six organizations will operate independently but will share office supplies and equipment, as well as administrative staff. They will also work together to conduct business training. Vargas hopes that they'll eventually be able to jointly offer bookkeeping services, insurance products, and group purchasing to members as well.
The six member organizations are working to raise $290,000 from both public and private sources for the next year of their joint operations-which includes the lease at the new location and other costs associated with moving and preparing the new space.
Vargas said that all six of the organizations have struggled amid the faltering economy. The Hispanic chamber, for example, had a $500,000 annual budget in 2007 and 2008-but it's been declining by about $100,000 for the past couple of years and now totals closer to $300,000.
Vargas added that grants have helped sustain the Minnesota Multi-Ethnic Chambers of Commerce Joint Council in years past. But as grantmaker investments have declined, there's been less to give out.
Within the next three months, Vargas expects to apply for eight to 10 grants and hopes to get at least one of them, adding, “I'd be happier to get two or three.”