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Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando chair John de Armas talks business during the pandemic

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Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando Chair John de Armas. Photo: Courtesy of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando

Passed last month, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan delivers a figurative shot in the arm to the U.S. economy, while more people are getting a literal shot in the arm as the COVID vaccination rollout picks up speed. Business leaders are optimistic about the economic impact of the stimulus and the easing of the pandemic. 

For the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, the pandemic triggered an emergency response as the chamber scrambled to help members stay afloat.

John de Armas, the chamber’s chair, joins Intersection to discuss how the pandemic reshaped the way the chamber does business and what he anticipates for the business landscape in 2021. 

De Armas says the pandemic has particularly impacted Hispanic businesses because they are connected to the service, hospitality and food industries. He says although some of their members weren’t able to stay afloat, the chamber didn’t lose as many members as they predicted.

“All in all, we’re actually pretty content with where we are today,” de Armas says. “However, it was extraordinarily sad to see some of our businesses that have been in place for a long time go away.”

He says during the pandemic, the chamber transformed from a brick-and-mortar institution to a digital platform. It held more than 80 seminars in English and Spanish to help businesses survive the pandemic. 

Throughout the past year, the chamber has also provided free help with management consulting, social media, operations, accounting and legal services. De Armas says these interactions helped businesses not just survive, but thrive. 

“They had people that were receptive to learning,” he says. “You know, you have to be receptive to learning; you have to be receptive to ask for help and get help. And the ones that did benefited tremendously.” 

De Armas says the chamber is launching a “new era” to strengthen businesses and Orlando’s Hispanic community by encouraging members to do business with each other and its trustees. The chamber will also work to develop technology and software for the digital realm. 

De Armas says with the vaccine, things are looking very promising.

“The speed of the vaccine is quite rapid right now,” he says. “So yeah, I’m very hopeful.”

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