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Published: Thursday, 4/27/2006

Hispanic businessman calls self matchmaker

Barrera Barrera

Promoting a business is sometimes nothing more than acting as a matchmaker.

Just ask MichaeI Barrera, president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce since last June.

Speaking to a business group in Toledo yesterday, he described an exercise used by the organization at an annual trade show to link Latino-owned businesses with executives responsible for awarding corporate contracts.

Businesses get 15 minutes to make separate pitches to three to five firms in quick succession.

"It's a combination of eHarmony and speed-dating," Mr. Barrera said to the laughter of 75 people attending the three-day spring meeting of the National Hispanic Corporate Council at the headquarters of Owens Corning on the downtown riverfront.

The council was formed 20 years ago by executives of Fortune 500 firms to link big companies with Hispanic businesses and consumers. OC was host for this week's gathering.

Mr. Barrera was among 16 speakers and panelists.

As president and chief executive of the Hispanic Chamber, Mr. Barrera advocates for the nation's nearly two million Hispanic businesses.

Over the past 27 years the organization has acted as a lobbyist and in many other roles, but Mr. Barrera said it is putting increasing emphasis on helping Hispanic-owned firms promote sales.

The organization gives out many awards at its annual convention, but the president said he would like to see it do more to recognize firms that have won major contracts.

The number of large Hispanic-owned businesses is growing, he said, but the vast majority are small family-owned firms.

Too many, he added, operate in sectors that are low growth and rely too heavily on personal finances.

But with the population of Hispanics exploding in the United States, he said, they can help by patronizing businesses owned by their own ethnic groups.

The gathering concludes today.

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