CA Hispanic Chamber Leader Mark Martinez Resigns

mmBy Rhashad R. Pittman

After leading the largest and most influential Hispanic business organization in the state to one of the most successful years in its history, Mark Martinez has stepped down as president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce (CHCC).

The former leader of the San Joaquin County’s Hispanic chamber submitted his letter of resignation just a few days before officially stepping down in early September. His departure came less than a year after being appointed to the position.

As president and CEO, Martinez managed a small staff that handles the daily operations and programs of the CHCC. He reported to the board of directors, the organization’s executive body. The CHCC board chair, Ernie Gutierrez, is the founder and CEO of Allied Industries an environmental firm based in Los Angeles. Gutierrez did not respond to requests for comment.

His announcement comes on the heels of the organization’s most financially successful year to date, and just weeks after CHCC’s annual convention, which received widespread praise and attracted a number of high profile speakers.

In his resignation letter (which was obtained by Latino Times), Martinez listed more than two dozen bullet points of accomplishments achieved by the organization during his short tenure as president and CEO. The number of milestones achieved has been unprecedented in the organization’s 35 year history, he stated.

“Upon my arrival in (October) 2012, the CHCC was amid a very serious time of turmoil and uncertainty,” Martinez stated. “With no real direction provided, I was able to stabilize the organization and funding sources as well as reinvigorate a staff that had very low morale.”

The accomplishments listed included raising the most revenue ever for the CHCC’s annual convention ($638,000), developing and putting on the organization’s first Economic Summit, and receiving the CHCC’s largest grant in its history, a $600,000 federal grant to inform the business community about the impact of the Affordable Care Act.

Under Martinez’s leadership, the CHCC also revamped the organization’s brand by launching a new website, new logo, and hiring a new public relations agency to generate media coverage. It also partnered with UC Berkeley’s business school for a major study of Hispanic businesses, and relocated the CHCC’s office, which resulted in yearly savings of thousands of dollars in annual rent.

“Although my time with the CHCC was brief,” Martinez stated, “the undeniable results will always be a highlight in my career.”

Martinez could not be reached for comment and has not made an official announcement as to his future plans.

Val DeLeon, emeritus board member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Silicon Valley, said he was both surprised and upset after learning about Martinez’s resignation.

“Mark was doing such a wonderful job,” DeLeon said. “I thought he was going to take the chamber to the next level.”

In the past year, the CHCC appeared to be building momentum in its efforts to raise the organization’s prominence and better support 700,000 Hispanic-owned businesses as many recover from the recent recession.

But the news of Martinez’s departure caused some current and past members of the local Hispanic chambers to question the CHCC’s leadership.

Carlos Solórzano-Cuadra, CEO of the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce of San Francisco, said there have been a number of chamber leaders at the state and local levels who have resigned in recent years. The number of departures has been alarming, he said.

“I think we need to take a strong look at the board of directors,” Solórzano-Cuadra said. “Why are we losing leaders? Why are they resigning?”

Formed in 1978, the CHCC’s efforts have focused on promoting and supporting economic development of Hispanic and minority owned businesses and entrepreneurs. Its membership includes more than 30 certified local chambers, according to its website.

Yet, there is more than double the number of local Hispanic chambers throughout the state, Solórzano-Cuadra said. Many local Hispanic chambers once were official members of the CHCC and are no longer active. It appears to be a lack of communication and transparency by the executive board pushing many leaders and local chambers away, Solórzano-Cuadra said.

“We should be the premier Hispanic business organization in the state of California,” Solórzano-Cuadra said. “When we’re losing CEOs, you have to take a look at the leadership.”


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