The West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has selected a long-time volunteer and board member as its new executive director.
The Grand Rapids-based chamber said yesterday it named Guillermo Cisneros to the post.
He started in the role last week, replacing Jorge Gonzalez, who left in January to take a co-director position at Start Garden.
Cisneros is an insurance advisor with a background in business, accounting and human resources.
He has volunteered at the chamber since 2012, most recently as board VP and chair of the programming and events committee.
“I have a big passion for this organization and have been involved with Hispanic businesses since I moved here,” Cisneros said. “I know their needs and what they need to be successful. I want to connect them, so all of us can succeed in the community.”
Luis Avila, president of the chamber’s board, said there were more than a dozen well-qualified candidates, but Cisneros “clearly stood out.”
“We are thrilled to have someone with Guillermo’s education, work experience and passion for the Hispanic community,” Avila said. “From his previous work experience, he understands the business community and their needs. He understands the issues they face.
“In his role before taking this one, he worked with a lot of Hispanic businesses and knew the ins and outs of the community. He’s been working with the chamber as a volunteer for several years, so he can take our efforts and run with them.”
Avila said the chamber is thankful to have Cisneros at a time when the organization has grown from 300 to 600-plus members in the past three years.
“We feel very lucky that someone of his caliber and talent was willing to lead the chamber,” Avila said. “It’s not often that someone comes along at the right moment with the right level of experience that fits the job like he does.”
Cisneros will focus on setting policy for the chamber, programming and developing relationships with nonprofits, small- and medium-size businesses, corporations and the government.
He will also aim to retain young talent in West Michigan by serving as a bridge between college graduates and local industry.
Cisneros will oversee chamber events, such as an upcoming business pitch competition on May 3 at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business and the Latino Career Fair that debuted in November.
“I helped with planning the Latino Career Fair,” Cisneros said. “We saw the need for building a bridge between students and professionals here in West Michigan. It’s one of our main goals for the next year, to keep it going.”
Cisneros, 39, has worked as an insurance advisor in West Michigan for the past five years, most recently with Berends Hendricks Stuit Insurance Agency in Grandville.
Cisneros has worked in accounting and human resources in Mexico and as a human resources controller in Spain, before moving to the U.S. in 2009.
He holds a master’s degree in economics and international business administration from Autonomous University of Madrid and a certificate in human resources studies from Cornell University.
The West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was founded in 2003 by a group of Hispanic business leaders looking to support economic and cultural understanding and represent Hispanic business interests.
The chamber offers networking opportunities, workshops, events, bilingual business counseling and free legal advice.