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Helping the AAPI Business Community

By Fran Campbell | President of Asian Chamber of Commerce |

2020 can certainly be defined as an unexpected, unprecedented challenge to our health, to our economy, and to our concepts of racial equity. This makes our work at the Asian Chamber of Commerce (ACC) more important now than ever. By the time the shutdown and stay-at-home orders began in mid-March – many businesses had already realized a 30-40% drop in revenue.

Simultaneously exacerbating this, our AAPI community was hit with a wave of anti-Asian bias that started with rude taunts and verbal abuse and ramped up by summer into threats, vandalism, and assault. All this, plus dire health concerns that changed how families live day to day, further impacted small businesses and employment.

The ACC responded early by making state and city leaders aware of the crisis AAPI small businesses were enduring. Then, when the stay-at-home orders came out in March, the ACC made quick rearrangements and continued to provide culturally competent economic development and business opportunities for our members and AAPI community.

The ACC is both hopeful and pragmatic for 2021. We know that recovery is going to be difficult and slow, but it can be achieved.

Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in Denver Director

General Jerry Chang and Clarence Low in July 2020

We strongly encourage our small business and community partners to take advantage of every opportunity available. Both the State and City offer several types of COVID relief. Many charitable foundations, non-profits, business improvement districts, and anchor corporations offer grants, loan assistance, in-kind contributions, and free consultations. It’s important to know that the majority of these relief programs are specifically intended for minority & women-owned businesses. And don’t forget the importance of having business certifications (no matter what type of business you own) that will put your business on the preferred vendor list for corporate and government contracts. Take advantage!

The function of a chamber of commerce is to promote and represent the business interests of a community. But the minority & women chambers of commerce (including the Women’s Chamber, Colorado Black Chamber, Hispanic Chamber, Colorado LGBTQ Chamber, and the Rocky Mtn. Indian Chamber) represent specific communities beyond boundaries of city and state. Especially in 2020, businesses and government agencies look to these chambers to ensure equity and inclusion. Our work with our respective business communities during the Census, COVID, a crashed economy, and racial protests couldn’t be more important.

This year was certainly not what I expected and the learning curve was short! But, ironically, my first year was very rewarding. When I first stepped into this position over a year ago, my predecessor Clarence Low emphasized the importance of “connections”. I’ve witnessed how the connections of small and big businesses have proved the resilience of our AAPI community. It gives me confidence that we can get through this together.

I’m indebted to Peggy Moore, Travis Tom, and Clarence Low for their support; and to the ACC Board of Directors for their determination to help the community get through this.

2020 Achievements

  • Hosted webinars, trainings, and virtual meetings on topics related to COVID-19 relief and recovery strategies; identifying financial resources; retaining or finding employment; and mental health guidance.

  • Hosted the Annual ACC Gala in July 2020 as a “Gala-To-Go” event which served curbside meals from Member Asian cuisine restaurants and provided meals to the frontline medical and administrative staff at Denver Health.

  • Established the Asian Chamber Foundation of Colorado which will provide academic scholarships and leadership and Board readiness training to AAPIs entering the workforce.

  • Participated in a leadership role on the Denver Economic Relief and Recovery Council (ERRC) Strategic Partners Committee to ensure all recommendations meet equity standards.

  • Provided assistance to ACC members, AAPI small businesses, and individuals applying for COVID-19 relief funds and SBE certifications.

  • Worked with the Denver Economic Development & Opportunity Office to distribute full PPE kits to small businesses and partnered with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Denver and Mile High United Way to distribute over 100,000 PPE face masks to communities and individuals throughout Denver.

  • Hosted the Annual ACC Golf Tournament at Fossil Trace Golf Club in October 2020 – an enjoyable day of safe, socially distant, outdoor activity for members and guests.

Governor Jared Polis and ACC discuss how to support AAPI small businesses at Star Kitchen in March 2020

Asian Chamber of Commerce Staff

Fran Campbell, President/CEO

Peggy Moore, Special Projects Coordinator

ACC Board of Directors

Travis Tom, Board Chairman, Wells Fargo Bank

Rosanne Dutzer, Board Vice Chair, Dutzer & Co

Don Cooley, Director, Transamerica Financial Advisors

Lacey Golonka, Director, Xcel Energy

Elizabeth Kim, Director, EY Mortgage

Gregg Kunz, Director, Rocky Mountain Business Advisors

Clarence Low, Director/Advisor, Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers

Mary Monzon, Director, Hertz Rental Car

Alyssa Nilemo, Executive Director, Asian Chamber Foundation of Colorado

Jennifer Malpiede, Director, Denver Public Schools

Sandeep Sapra, Director, FirstBank

Joe Sinise, Director, Access Asia Tours

Sherap Tharchen, Director, Minor & Brown PC Linda Yakota, Director, Janus Henderson

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