An interview with Integration Initiative I3 member, Synthia Jaramillo, Chief Operating Officer of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce
“The fact that ABQLC has been able to rally everyone – nonprofits, charter schools, businesses – is pretty incredible. As a result, now we’re thinking differently. It’s really shifted my mindset personally, but I think it’s also shifted the mindset of our city.” Synthia Jaramillo, COO, Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce
For the past few years, Albuquerque has received national attention for its growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and growth in small business. But if you ask Synthia Jaramillo, COO of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce and I3 Leadership Table member for Albuquerque’s Integration Initiative, entrepreneurship in Albuquerque is nothing new. New Mexicans, she says, are entrepreneurial by nature. “New Mexicans have been entrepreneurial for centuries,” says Synthia. “We don’t have the big corporations that say Cleveland, Chicago or New York have. We have to rely on ourselves to be innovative and take care of our families. Without the big corporations, we have to do it ourselves, and community and collaboration are an important part of that.”
It’s something she witnesses everyday with her work at the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, helping immigrant and Spanish-speaking populations in New Mexico grow their own businesses from the ground up. And while Albuquerque’s Hispanic population is certainly part of their focus, Synthia says it’s not just Hispanic populations that they are working to support. The shift that led Albuquerque’s Hispano Chamber to support other minority entrepreneurs came in part as a result of their work with Albuquerque’s Integration Initiative.
“Our work with Living Cities is all about inclusion. Before, the Chamber wasn’t focused on that, necessarily,” says Synthia. “Albuquerque’s Living Cities Integration Initiative has brought to light the need to make sure these diverse and underserved groups in the community are included. We’re making sure everyone is included, whether it’s immigrant entrepreneurs or small business that may not have the resources they need to succeed.”
For the past two years, Synthia and the Hispano Chamber of Commerce have been working on legislation that will finally put that mission into action. With the HUBDO program, the organization is working to help underserved businesses – from women owned to immigrant owned – gain better access to city and state procurement opportunities.
It’s the kind of inclusive work that Synthia says she’s proud to do – both with the Chamber and with ABQLC. And she says she sees this kind of action now more than ever, thanks to ABQLC’s collaborative spirit and ability to bring leaders from all sectors of Albuquerque together. “The initiative has a beautiful way of bringing us all together. I’m working with organizations now that I probably wouldn’t have been working with if it weren’t for ABQLC. If we’re going to change our economy for the better we have to collaborate. It’s 100% necessary.”
And the collaboration goes both ways. Not only are I3 table members bringing resources and ideas to the leadership table, but the ideas are flowing to individual organizations as well. In 2017, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce plans to adopt the Navigator system, a program designed by the Albuquerque Living Cities Integration Initiative to position well-connected people in the community to provide resources and guidance to entrepreneurs. And when it comes down to it, Synthia says that’s exactly what the city needs: “We can all help to act as navigators,” she says, and even natural entrepreneurs need a little guidance to reach their goals.