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Mass. Latino Chamber opens office in Holyoke

Date: 3/31/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- Noting the growth of Latino businesses in Hampden County the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce (MLCC) has opened a new office and training center at 225 High St.

At the opening ceremonies, the chamber's president Carlos Gonzalez explained that his organization would play "a complementary role" to the activities of the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce.

Doris Ransford, president of the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, added, "We look at you as partners in the development of the city of Holyoke."

Gonzalez said he hopes to replicate in Holyoke what his organization has done in Springfield. The organization purchased a building that has served as a business incubator in which 19 businesses have started, creating jobs for 24 people.

Last year, the MLCC assisted 300 area businesses.

The Holyoke office will have a staff of two part-time people to start, Gonzalez said, which should grow into full-time positions.

This move is part of the MLCC's plan to have four offices established in the state over the next three years. He said that Latinos own eight percent of the businesses in Holyoke and there is a great need for education and training.

Gonzalez praised both the Holyoke Chamber and city officials for their assistance in establishing the new office.

As part of the opening, the MLCC honored a long-time Latino business in the city, Fernandez Family Restaurant. Lopez said that Rafael Fernandez came to Holyoke in 1969 and started his restaurant with his wife and his brother in 1988. The business moved to its present 161 High St. address in 1999.

Gonzalez added that now the couple's three daughters work in the business and this second generation is "the true factor of success."

He called the restaurant "a real economic development success story."

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