“It is imperative that we develop relationships with the people that make decisions that affect us,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, President and CEO of the organization. “From immigration to health care, tax reform, and the natural disasters happening in Mexico and Puerto Rico, we need to make our voices known, and that is why we are here tonight.”
Rodriguez was addressing those gathered for the chamber’s first ever Legislative Reception, which was held at City Hall on Thursday evening. The chamber designed the informal event to give Latino business owners and community leaders an opportunity to meet with city officials and agency representatives to discuss issues concerning the economic development of the city’s Hispanic community, with a particular focus on its business sector.
Along with organizing networking events like the Legislative Reception, the chamber offers Latino entrepreneurs various opportunities to improve their skills, including providing access to experts, resources and capital.
Latinos comprise nearly 15 percent of Philadelphia’s population, Rodriguez said at the event, and have a “growing impact” on the city’s economy. She noted that there are more than 18,000 Latino-owned businesses in the Philadelphia region, with 8,000 being within the city limits.
Speakers at the event included Mayor Jim Kenney and At-Large Councilman Derek Green, who both praised the chamber for its efforts in advocating for and promoting Latino-owned businesses in the city.
Kenney credited the chamber and Hispanic community for their efforts in revitalizing business districts throughout Philadelphia. The mayor said these efforts have contributed to a decrease in the city's crime rate, which he said is at a 40-year-low. With this reduction, the mayor said the city’s children have been provided a better environment for learning, noting the improved averages in standardized test scores and reading levels among Philadelphia students, a trend that Kenney aims to further through education programs like PHL Pre-K and community schools.
These positive developments, the mayor remarked, help make Philadelphia an ideal city for large companies like Amazon, which is actively searching for a location for its second North American headquarters.
Concluding his comments, Kenney reiterated his commitment to the city's immigrant communities, especially within the Latino population, saying he will not allow “bully tactics” from the federal government to “scare people into the shadows,” keeping undocumented immigrants from reporting being victims of or witnesses to crimes out of fear of deportation.
“We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper,” Kenney said. “People are here for a reason. They’ve chosen Philadelphia for a reason, and we have an obligation to keep them safe and to let them know that we value them, and we will protect them and support them.”