The Dallas Morning News
Friday, January 2, 2004

Latinas lining up for Dallas chamber's top spot

By MERCEDES OLIVERA / The Dallas Morning News
Latina businesswomen, already a growing force among entrepreneurs nationally, will head the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for the next two possibly, three or more years.

Arcilia Acosta, who began her term as chairwoman of the chamber's board this week, will be sworn in along with the other board members at a public reception at the Renaissance Hotel on Jan. 22. She becomes the fourth woman in that post in the chamber's 64-year history.

Nina Vaca is the chairwoman-elect and will succeed Ms. Acosta in 2005.

Alice Rodriguez, vice chairwoman of the chamber's board of directors, has the option of succeeding Ms. Vaca.

And the board's executive committee is composed mostly of women.

It's part of a national trend that sees more Latinas becoming more active in leadership positions in business.

The Center for Women's Business Research in Washington, D.C., found that between 1997 and 2002, Hispanic women-owned businesses grew by nearly 40 percent to more than 470,000 nationwide. Today, one-third of all Hispanic-owned firms are led by women.

These businesses generate nearly $30 billion in sales. And Texas ranks second among the top 10 states with the greatest number of Latina-owned firms.

"It's really exciting for me to live in this era, when women are now empowered to help other women," said Ms. Vaca, who runs Pinnacle Technical Resources Inc. in Dallas. "What's happening at the chamber is happening across the country. We see women actively taking a role in corporate America."

She and Ms. Acosta noted that in 2003, Latinas chaired the chamber's four major events. And Latina membership at the chamber is up.

So it's only natural that Latinas ascend to the leadership post at the chamber, Ms. Acosta said.

She gives much credit to former chairman Gary Castro, who appointed six women to the board of directors during his tenure. Only one woman sat on the board at the time.

He also groomed successors by including them in meetings with corporate partners and agencies.

Besides sharing leadership positions at the chamber, Ms. Vaca and Ms. Acosta have something else in common: Their fathers were entrepreneurs who shaped their daughters for a life in business.

When Ms. Acosta, 38, took over her father's construction business in 2000, she said she felt prepared for the job. Besides growing up in the business, she had also been in banking and real estate for two years before she took over CARCON Industries and Construction LLC.

She had also been active in the chamber for about a dozen years. She had served on the finance committee and had chaired one the chamber's four major annual events.

For Ms. Vaca, 32, taking charge of her father's travel agencies in Los Angeles at 17 just as she was graduating from high school was the catalyst for her leap into the business world.

She was born in Quito, Ecuador, and raised in California. She moved to Texas to go to college and started her own company in 1996.

The new advisory committee for the Latino Cultural Center will meet for the first time next week to review programs and decide how many events the center can handle in one year, said the center's manager, Alda Godines.

Committee member Charles Santos, executive director of TITAS, said he would like to see the center become a strong venue for nationally and internationally acclaimed Latino artists.

He said the center has to have a good representation of local artists. "But it has to have a balance," he said. "It will only add to the prestige of local artists to be placed among national ones."

Mercedes Olivera can be reached at molivera@dallasnews .com or at P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, Texas 75265.