Story and photo by TAUNA LYNNE PRICE
The Asian American community maintained their lives. They worked, ran their businesses, supported their families and were contributing members of society. However, no business network existed among the Asian culture in Utah. There was no business community in place to help them stay connected and support one another.
In 2005 Gov. Michael Leavitt, under the auspices of the Utah Office of Ethnic Affairs, called all Asian leaders together. Eunice Jones, one of the attendees, said the leaders were divided into four groups: health, education, legal and economic development. Leavitt’s goal was to have an Asian directory created.
Jones, 51, a successful businesswoman who was born in the Philippines, was sought out by Leavitt to assist in bridging these cultures. She witnessed the importance of networking and local cultural support first hand through her volunteerism.
Jones was a real estate broker and therefore placed herself in economic development, where she knew her skills would be most useful. Jones recalls only roughly 10 Asian leaders who were involved in this assignment.
The group brainstormed for months. Jones said eventually all Asian leaders quit attending the meetings, with the exception of herself and Raymond Uno. Uno is a retired judge and currently a board member of the Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce.
Jones began researching the Western United States and looked at Arizona, Colorado and California for any Asian Chamber of Commerce currently active. She discovered that each state has its own Asian Chamber of Commerce. She started printing and reading all available articles to gain ideas to move Utah forward in starting its own Asian Chamber.
“I said judge, can we call all of our business owners, all the Asian business owners, and we all come together and start the chamber,” Jones said, “and he said that’s [a] great idea, let’s do it.”
In 2005, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce partnered with Jones and Uno to help them launch the Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce.
Jones remembers Zion’s Bank stepping up to be the first donor and founding sponsor for the Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce with a $10,000 donation.
According to the chamber’s Web site, “The purpose of the Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce shall be to promote social, economic, and other business resources to enable its members to become successful entrepreneurs and professionals. This will be done by training, education, sharing of information, networking and other resources that will be made available through the Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce and Asian-owned businesses.”
The Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce is involved with and hosts many different events to promote camaraderie among the Asian culture and educate the general public.
According to its mission statement, the chamber strives “to foster Asian businesses and professionals within the state of Utah, particularly small businesses, with activities that result in a prosperous and economically healthy Asian community, and to promote international trade with Asian and other countries.”