Latino chamber opens office on CMU campus

Sonie Gutierrez
Tom Benton
Jorge Pantoja
CMU President Tim Foster

The Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce has relocated its office to the Colorado Mesa State University campus in Grand Junction in a collaborative effort intended to help entrepreneurs and students.

“Statistically, Latinx students and or business owners are more likely to have first-generation status than the rest of the population. This is where we see a special role for the Latino chamber to serve students while located at CMU,” said Jorge Pantoja, president of the Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce.

Tom Benton, director of the Maverick Innovation Center, agreed. “Mesa County has a large Latinx population, and CMU serves a large cohort of Latinx students. This means we can be a bridge between the Latino business community and the CMU Latinx student community to strengthen opportunities for both.”

The chamber relocated its office into the Maverick Innovation Center at 730 Mesa Ave.

The building offers shared workspaces for students, faculty and community to develop ideas for products, services and the businesses to provide them. The building also houses a cybersecurity center as well as the Factory coworking operation.

Chamber staff plans to establish internship and job placement services as well as mentoring and cultural heritage education efforts.

Sonia Gutierrez, a member of the Latino chamber board who helped coordinate the relocation of the office to CMU, said the move builds on chamber efforts to help Latinx business owners succeed. 

“We exist as an organization because for many Latinx business owners, they may be first- or second-generation owners or operators, and we want to provide them networking, cultural connection opportunities and business conditions that make commerce more accessible,” Gutierrez said. “This is especially important when they may be competing with those who may have been in business for multiple generations.”

CMU President Tim Foster said the collaboration also reflects effort to better serve traditionally underserved student populations.

“In 2020, CMU had the largest single donor donation in the history of the university because of our commitment to serving first-generation and minority student populations,” Foster said. “We are not stopping now, and these kinds of innovative partnerships show that the more resources we acquire, the more investment we make in our services. These investments provide meaningful returns to the benefits of these amazing and talented young people.”