SIERRA VISTA — The Sierra Vista Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SVHC) hosted a multi-chamber mixer in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month on Wednesday at the Windemere Hotel, giving officials and business owners from both sides of the border a chance to mingle and discuss plans for the future.
Dan Valle, the international director for the SVHC, said the event was a way to highlight the importance of the Hispanic and Mexican market in Cochise County and beyond, as well as create friendly relationships between the different cultures and nationalities. Hispanic purchasing power is significant both nationally and locally, at about $45 billion in Arizona alone in 2018, he said — which was why discussing ways to support and expand the market was so vital for Sierra Vista’s economy.
“For a business owner that is not taking care of the Hispanic market, then possibly if you’re in Sierra Vista as a business owner, you could increase your business by about 25 percent,” he said.
Southern Cochise County’s proximity to the international border gives businesses in both countries added opportunities, something the SVHC has been working on since its formation in 2014, he added.
“We’ve attended expos down there (in Mexico), and people find out that we have things that they like,” said Valle. “So if those businesses want to join our chamber, then we can deliberately help them focus on that Mexican peso that comes over.”
Representatives from several municipalities in Sonora were in attendance to discuss such future economic development.
The newly elected mayors of Nacozari and neighboring Naco, Sonora, sat at a table with Mayor Rick Mueller of Sierra Vista, where they chatted about their respective communities.
Mayor Andrea Celeste Ramos Erivez of Naco, who has only been in office for two weeks, said she was looking forward to working with Sierra Vista representatives to strengthen the ties between the two cities.
“Right now, we’d like to think about opening an office here in Sierra Vista to promote tourism in Naco,” she said. “It would be a good way to start promoting our mechanics, the dentist offices and other places.”
Sierra Vista residents can also look forward to at least one popular Sonoran business coming to them in the near future: El Diamante Fabrica de Botas (Diamond Boot Factory) from Nacozari — about 90 miles from Sierra Vista — which makes elegantly tooled and embroidered leather boots and goods.
“We’ve met a lot of people here who were really interested,” said Ana Santillanes, who works at the business and has made several trips to Sierra Vista in the past to sell the boots, including at the summer’s recent Sonora Fest. “It’s something you can’t really get here.”
Valle said the chamber and the city of Sierra Vista have been working on an initiative to bring the Diamond Boot Factory, as well as other Sonoran merchants, to Sierra Vista on a regular basis, perhaps by setting up a small plaza on Fry Boulevard.
“Those are the kinds of businesses that we want to attract,” said Valle of the boot factory. “I think that’s going to add a real neat aspect of the Sonora culture right here in Sierra Vista.
“It would be particularly good for people who can’t go across to Mexico, like DoD civilians and the military.”
During the mixer, Valle introduced the guests from Mexico as well as from affiliate Hispanic chambers in Nogales, Douglas and Tucson, emphasising the benefit and importance of working together.
Lea Márquez Peterson, the CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as well as its three affiliates, said she has been impressed with some of the initiatives of the Sierra Vista chamber and how much membership has grown in the past few years.
“We really want to grow our cross-border relations,” she said, adding that Sierra Vista’s recent SonoraFest was an example of that. “What a success. We had great results and a lot of positive responses from businesses in Sonora and Arizona.”