Villapudua Looks to Expand Chamber’s Efforts for Local Businesses

Carlos Villapudua will bring a broad array of leadership experience in government and the community to his new role as head of the largest and most influential Latino business organization in the region.
As the new chief executive officer of the San Joaquin County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SJCHCC), Villapudua will lead an organization that represents the interests of hundreds of business owners throughout the Central Valley. The Hispanic chamber announced his appointment as CEO last month. Villapudua officially started in his new role on Jan. 17.
His tenure comes at a time when the region has seen signs of economic vitality after years of recession and high unemployment. But opportunities lie ahead in tourism and attracting major employers to the area, he said, both of which benefit local small businesses.
“It’s important that the chamber continues to advocate for the needs of our members in order to grow successful businesses in the San Joaquin Valley,” Villapudua said. “SJCHCC can provide them with the programs, services, connections and resources that can help our Latino-owned businesses flourish.”
The former San Joaquin County Board of Supervisor brings with him a broad knowledge of the inner workings of local government, and a vast network, to the leadership role, all of which he hopes will help guide his efforts to make doing business in the region that much easier for small business owners.
“Creating a solid foundation of access and education to help our small businesses and encouraging a streamlined business-friendly environment from our regulators will ensure a sustainable balance where the community can prosper,” Villapudua said, “and the Chamber is committed to carrying out this mission.”
Bob Gutierrez, President of the Hispanic Chamber’s Board of Directors, said Villapudua’s experience will be vital in the chamber’s advocacy and promotion efforts to help create “a stronger and sustainable local economy” for its members and the community.
“His wealth of experience as a previously elected official in the area speaks to his ability to engage both the private and public sectors in creating opportunities and advocating for our members and Latino-owned businesses throughout the County to more effectively and successfully thrive in their business ventures,” Gutierrez said.
Villapudua fills a position that was previously held by Brenna Butler Garcia, the first woman to serve as CEO of the SJSCHCC. She replaced Mark Martinez, who served as CEO of the local Hispanic chamber from 2004 to 2012, and as board president from 2002 to 2004.
Founded 45 years ago, the SJCHCC helps local entrepreneurs establish their business, access capital, and connect with other small business owners. The chamber’s influence is felt across the region through its signature programs and events, such as its annual college and financial aid workshop, business workshops, and Latina business conference.
Because of these and other initiatives, the chamber already has a robust portfolio of programs and services that appeal to its members, Villapudua noted, adding that he would like to expand these efforts.
“With the expansion in tourism, I see SJCHCC looking to create marketing opportunities for our members such as participation in street fairs or pop-up markets. I also believe our members can benefit from procurement opportunities with large sector industry and state or federal agencies,” he said. “Making sure our members have the education and capacity to become certified will be important.”
A Stockton native, Carlos graduated from Franklin High School and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from California State University-Sacramento. He has held a number of positions, including community social service director for San Joaquin County’s Human Services Agency at the Northeast Community Center, director for the Welfare-to-Work “CalWorks” program and pre-trial service officer for the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department. He was also chairman of the Coalition of the Mexican-American organizations’ Cinco de Mayo Parade.
Challenges Lie Ahead
Villapudua has taken leadership of the chamber amid great changes and some uncertainty in the business world due to potential changes in the Affordable Care Act, an increase in the state minimum wage, and technological advances being embraced by companies throughout the country, such as artificial intelligence and various mobile applications that could significantly reduce workforces within businesses.
Despite these challenges and changing landscape, he said, local small business owners should be optimistic about the economic vitality of the region because there are signs of economic growth.
“Large-sector employers continue to locate to cities within the San Joaquin County and our community is taking seriously the need to increase our graduation rates and develop an educated and employable workforce,” Villapudua said. “Over time we will see these efforts result in an increase in jobs and more opportunities for people to live and work in the area.”

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