What is today the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bridgeport, Inc. started back in 1972, when a group of local Bridgeport merchants with the goal of supporting the growing Hispanic business community in the Greater Bridgeport area created the Spanish Merchants Association of Greater Bridgeport, Inc. The creation of a merchant’s association that not only spoke the Spanish language, but also possessed the cultural awareness, was an assertive response to the needs of the growing Hispanic businesses in the region.
The first installation of officers was on April 21, 1973, by Attorney Leonard M. Cocco, with the first president of the Association, Mr. Luis R. Morales. Since that moment on, a dedicated group of local business leaders devoted part of their time and energy to work tirelessly to unite the Hispanic merchants in an association that promoted common goals of progress and economic growth for its members.
Among the past presidents were Jose A. Vidal, Neville Rosa, Sr., Gilberto Hernandez, Ramon A. De Jesus, Carmen De Jesus, Samuel Jimenez, Jose “Joe” Maldonado, Jose C. Lugo, Russell Colon, Sr., Juan Rivera, Rosa D. Franco, Enrique Hernandez, David Feliu, Luis A. Lopez, Cruzmilda “Millie” Maldonado, Clodomiro Falcon, Richard De Jesus, and Marisol Herrera. The current president of the chamber is Andrea T. Fodor.
In the year 2008, and under the leadership of Clodomiro Falcon, the name of the association was changed to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bridgeport, Inc. from the Spanish Merchants Association of Greater Bridgeport, Inc. The new realities of the marketplace demanded for including not only merchants but also professionals, independent business owners, and non-Hispanic businesses targeting their products and services to the growing Hispanic market.
Under the theme “Unidad y Progreso”/Unity and Progress, the mission of the chamber remained the same: “ to promote the growth and development of the Hispanic business community in the Greater Bridgeport Region by providing opportunities designed to advance business goals for its members, while supporting positive social change through community involvement”.
The chamber continued with the programs and activities established by the Merchant’s Association such as the Yearly Banquet, the Hispanic Business Expo (established in 2001), the Scholarship Fund (managed by the Fairfield County Community Foundation), Business After Hours, and other social and networking activities. The educational component was enhanced by providing a Small Business Workshop Series every spring and fall to its members and potential members, in partnership with the SBA, SCORE, SBDC, SAMA, and CTPTAC, among others.
The growth of the Hispanic population in the Greater Bridgeport Area has made the chambers’ mission more relevant to support the economic growth of the region while taking in account the importance of ethnicity and cultural identity. From the beginning, and as of today, the members of the board of directors are volunteers. In this new stage, the chamber is looking for funds to hire administrative personnel to carry on the day-to-day operations of the chamber. The current board of directors is as follows:
Andrea T. Fodor, President, and Acting Treasurer
Eva Vega, Vice President
Clodomiro Falcon, Secretary
Ramona Santelices, Director
Peter Baez, Director
Celeste Tapia, Director
The chamber was granted the status 501(c)(6) by the Internal Revenue Services.