Supporters hope to create the first Hispanic chamber of commerce in the East Valley, but the president of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce says he'd prefer the group simply join his effort.
"It's not unusual for an independent or social group to form a chamber of commerce, but it's not preferred by us," said Charlie Deaton.
He noted that other groups, including Asians, blacks, women and homosexuals have formed their own representative business organizations. But, Deaton added: "A chamber of commerce is supposed to be about business, not social or racial issues."
Deaton said the Mesa Chamber of Commerce has four Hispanic-owned businesses in its membership, and it would welcome others.
"It doesn't make much sense for them - from a business perspective - to form their own social group," Deaton said.
The Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens will sponsor a discussion concerning the idea today at a Latino Town Hall at Mesa Community College.
Phil Austin, former president of the association, said a Hispanic chamber would be organized primarily to help businesses.
"Charlie is a descent guy, but he's not aware of what's going on," Austin said. "Besides, he's got an interest to protect. He's after new members."
Austin said an informal study of Hispanic-owned businesses shows that more than 700 are in the East Valley and the number is steadily growing.
"Many of them serve the Hispanic community, but they also need help attracting consumers from outside of the their communities," Austin said. "We're still in the discussion stage, but eventually we hope to see an East Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce."
He said the next step is to gain support from various Hispanic groups in the area, then file incorporation papers.
Austin said discussions about the creation of an East Valley organization began about five years ago with the Phoenix-based Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
"The Arizona Hispanic chamber focuses primarily on businesses in the Phoenix area, and doesn't service the needs of the East Valley," he said. "We've got their blessing to go ahead and start an East Valley chamber."