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Photo: GPHCC
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Hispanic chamber of commerce names its new CEO

Jennifer Rodríguez will be the new GPHCC CEO.

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The Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC) has chosen its new CEO.

The GPHCC said on Wednesday that it has named Jennifer Rodríguez to replace outgoing CEO Varsovia Fernandez, who announced in October she would be stepping down after this year. Rodríguez will begin her new post on Jan. 4.

“This is an exciting time for the Chamber and an opportunity to built on the incredible, transformative work that the GPHCC achieved under Varsovia Fernandez’s leadership, helping grow the Chamber from a membership base in the dozens to over 600, and spearheading the creation of a brand that serves a unique and necessary purpose in the region,” said Louis Rodriguez, chairman of the chamber’s board. “We are very excited about Jennifer's ability to lead our Chamber to the next level, building on a very solid base.”

Jennifer Rodríguez, who is currently the executive director of the city’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs (MOIMA), was approved by the chamber’s board of directors after she was selected from a “large” pool of candidates by a search committee.

“It was a majority decision,” said Louis Rodriguez. “The committee also involved former board members and community leaders. This allowed us to get an outsider's perspective on the candidates.”

Four candidates made the final list. After that the committee would measure the candidate's experience in running nonprofits, fundraising, grant writing and of course, Louis Rodríguez said, experience in the community.

“She bring a unique perspective and broad connections across the city,” said Louis Rodriguez “She has a bunch of great relationships with a lot of different areas in the city.”

Along with serving as the executive director of MOIMA since it was created in 2013, Rodríguez was also Vice President of Financial Services for the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) from 2001 to 2008. In addition, she has previously served on the board of the chamber and says she is familiar with the importance of the organization in the Hispanic community.

“I am honored for the opportunity to serve in this position at the Chamber and look forward to advancing its mission and building upon the work that Varsovia accomplished during her tenure at the GPHCC,” she said.

Jennifer Rodríguez praised Fernandez’s leadership for a period of radical growth for the chamber. For the most part she said, drastic changes are not in the works. Fernandez has set a “good foundation” for her to expand upon.

“The first 100 days, like in a Mayor’s office, everyone has a period of immersion and a period of analysis,” said Jennifer Rodríguez. “Ultimately, the organization is a membership organization. It is critical that we talk to our members and stakeholders and find out what are the things that they need.”

With around 7,000 Latino businesses in the area, Jennifer Rodríguez said the chamber only touches a portion of them. On top of the Latino businesses, there are other diverse communities in the the Philadelphia region that have been underrepresented.

“I think building strategic partnerships would be benefit the Latino community and everyone in the city,” she said. “But in order to do that, we will do what I did here with the Mayor’s office and that is to go out into the Latino Community and ask what they need from us.”

Though the organization has grown successfully, Louis Rodríguez believes one of the challenges it has faced is being able to properly serve smaller businesses.

“Our office is here in Center City,” he said. “The small businesses not in Center City feel like they are not being served as well as they should be. How should we move forward as far as involving all of these businesses and servicing them? That is where partnerships come in.”

If the chamber can partner with other organizations who serve the outside areas of the region, said Louis Rodríguez, then the chamber will be able to better serve those who might be out of their reach.

“Biggest thing for us right now is to do a lot of listening,” he said. “Listen to the board, listen to the members and listen to the community. We are not going to go out there and tell the Latino business community what we’re going to do. But we’re also going to make serious promises and we know we can help them with.”

 
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