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THE MIAMI HERALD
Puerto Rican Chamber Changes Name And Expands
The Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Broward County has changed its name better to reflect its open-door policy.
By JEANNETTE RIVERA-LYLES
June 20, 2004
The Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, proud of its a new name, is looking for a new home and working to sign up more members who are not Puerto Rican.
Formerly the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Broward County, the business group realized it had to become more diverse to remain relevant.
Founded in 2000, the group recently changed its name to the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director Frank Nieves said.
Chamber officers are seeking a new office in Broward after deciding not to renew their lease in Miramar because the rent was raised.
''It's not that we weren't inclusive in the past, but people kept on asking if they had to be Puerto Rican in order to join because of the name,'' Nieves said.
Members agreed that a name with a broader perspective would help attract new members from other backgrounds.
''I have a Puerto Rican restaurant called Pembroke Grill,'' chamber member Harry Luis García said. ``Why? Because I want to attract all kinds of people, not just Puerto Rican. I'd be a fool if I operated otherwise.''
The strategy seems to be working.
Since formally changing its name in March, the chamber has grown by 100 members, to a little more than 300. Although most members are Puerto Rican, other ethnic groups are represented, including non-Hispanics.
''We are growing, and I believe growth will make us stronger,'' Nieves said.
To foster that growth, the chamber is getting involved in projects they hope will give them name recognition and greater presence in the community.
Last week, members hosted a reception at DeVry University in Miramar for the cast of Pedro Navaja, the first all-Latin musical with star appeal to appear on stage at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. It was performed Friday and Saturday.
Sharing a gigantic paella with about 100 chamber members and their friends were Grammy award-winners Elvis Crespo and Gilberto Santarosa, singer Melina León, and actress Sully Díaz.
The allure of such a star-studded cast had a big impact on ticket sales. All three functions sold out. The producer, Puerto Rico-based Lolyn Paz, thanked the chamber for helping her make the appropriate contacts to bring the production to town.
''I could have not done it without your support,'' she said.
Nieves was ecstatic about the enthusiasm the play generated.
''We have demonstrated that we can support an event of this magnitude. We know what art is, we know what culture is, and we have the numbers to make something like this a success,'' he said.
Next on the list: Help Hispanics from all countries achieve elected office.
''We are way under-represented across the board,'' said chamber vice president Minerva Casanas-Simon, a candidate for the Broward School Board. ``We need to organize and get involved to change that.''
For information about the chamber, visit www.prcham beronline.com.