Jessica Cavazos is in the business of creating hope.
As the new executive director of the Latino Chamber of Commerce, Cavazos wants to see Latino businesses expand to some of Madison’s abandoned buildings, where she said they will not only create jobs, but help address some of the city’s disparities. Cavazos said this will create hope for residents living in these disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Abandoned buildings, Cavazos said, add to the anxiety and despair of a community.
“So how do you create hope and how do you energize communities?” Cavazos asked. “You add new business sites, you add new revitalizations to those areas and you create job opportunities, even if it’s just small business opportunities.”
Just adding two or three jobs to an area, Cavazos said, helps build a community up.
But Cavazos is confident about the resources she has to work with.
“I just really love the energy that Madison has between organizations,” Cavazos said.
As her new role as the executive director, Cavazos said she hopes to build off of the ongoing collaboration between organizations in Madison. She hopes to work with the city economic development board, among others, to give the tools, resources and space to business owners interested in expanding. Cavazos also hopes to leverage partnerships to find investors for these potential business prospects in abandoned buildings.
While bringing businesses into these empty spaces will create jobs, Cavazos said in addition, more can and should be done for those who are newly employed.
“If we’re creating jobs, if we’re investing in businesses to create those jobs, what is the other side of it?” Cavazos asked.
Cavazos said she would also like to see the Latino Chamber of Commerce help provide new employees with job skills training so they have the chance to develop skills so they can progress beyond an initial job. That sort of support should be ongoing.
Cavazos said she likes to think outside of the box, and two dedicated staff will work alongside her in her new position as executive director to hammer out the details will allow her to focus on the big picture.
To build up that big picture of what it will ultimately take to add new energy to these neighborhoods, Cavazos said she is first focusing on meeting with as many people across Dane County who want to make a difference as possible.
“For me, it’s always about communication,” Cavazos said. “I think communication creates inroads to prosperity, to different opportunities … For me, it’s really important that as we develop economic development models in Dane County that helps Latinos progress, that there’s also some kind of social aspect to that.”
Cavazos said she is especially excited to work with the Chamber of Commerce because of its forward thinking and progressive nature. Compared to prior chambers she has worked with, Cavazos said Dane County’s Latino Chamber of Commerce is doing things far more advanced.
Cavazos said she thinks having the UW campus as such a prominent feature of the city also adds to the energy here.
“I think that because of the university there’s a lot of that magic going on, that energy and infusion of ideas,” Cavazos said. “I’m just really happy to be in this community.”