TWIN FALLS — The Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and south-central chapter of the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce entered into a partnership that leaders hope will serve as a model in a state with a quickly growing Hispanic population.
Attendees of the first “State of the Hispanic Community of South-Central Idaho” address and luncheon, hosted Nov. 4 by the recently-established local branch of Hispanic chamber, included Magic Valley business owners, politicians and Hispanic community leaders from across Idaho.
Idaho’s Hispanic population is rapidly increasing, especially in the Magic Valley: 23 percent of the region’s population was Hispanic at the 2016 census. With that growth comes a question, “How can individuals and businesses do more to support the Hispanic community?” Idaho Dairymen’s Association CEO Rick Naerebout asked.
“There’s a great opportunity for us to show that we can be conservative but also pro-immigration,” Naerebout said. “We can be that example for the rest of the country to look at. I believe that’s happening in areas of south-central Idaho, and I believe we have the opportunities and the leadership to do it.”
The partnership between the two chambers, made official with a signing by Twin Falls Mayor and Chamber of Commerce CEO Shawn Barigar and Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce south-central chapter president Alex Castaneda, is one step toward strengthening support for the local Hispanic community, statewide board chairman Ivan Castillo said.
“We understood that it was important for us to become the bridge,” Castillo said. “We’re ready to create those partnerships ... and to make our similarities create that synergy necessary to make change.”
Leaders of Hispanic chamber hope the agreement, which encourages the chambers to “identify areas of mutual interest and concern” and “(promote) mutual development,” will not be the only partnership of its kind in Idaho, CEO Diane Bevan said.
“We want to link arms with all our local city chambers,” Bevan said, adding that any Hispanic business owner who joins his or her local chamber will automatically receive free membership in the Hispanic chamber.
Other speakers at the luncheon included Margie Gonzalez of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, Judge Roger Burdick of the Idaho Supreme Court and Eulogio Mendoza, owner of La Campesina in Jerome, who told attendees through an interpreter the story of how he started his business 25 years ago.
Barigar noted some of the challenges facing Hispanic residents of the Magic Valley amid the region’s rapid growth, including relatively high unemployment rates and relatively low education levels.
“While this population is growing, there still is much work that needs to be done,” Barigar said. “But behind all of those numbers are real people.”