Tisha Tallman, president and CEO of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, discusses the organization's growth over the last 25 years.

In the early 1980s, Hispanic business leaders in metro Atlanta saw the need for an organization that would help their companies grow.

More than 25 years later, the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is going strong, with more than 1,200 members. It is also the umbrella group for five bi-national chambers of commerce in Georgia.

No longer focusing solely on small companies, the Hispanic chamber has expanded into the national and international arenas. It regularly sends representatives to international conferences such as the Americas Competitiveness Forum last September in Santiago, Chile, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO summits in Lima, Peru, and Singapore.

The chamber has participated in Georgia Department of Economic Development trade missions to Brazil, Mexico and Chile.

It is active in efforts to bring the World Cup soccer tournament to Atlanta in 2018 or 2022 and also wants to bring the 2012 U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce convention here.

“We’re becoming a regional organization,” Tisha Tallman, the chamber’s president and CEO, told GlobalAtlanta. “The mission is to support and promote economic development opportunities domestically and internationally for our Hispanic vendors. Our business is also about hooking up those Hispanic businesses with non-Hispanic entities.”

Georgia has more than 18,000 Hispanic-owned businesses, said Ms. Tallman.

While the U.S. corporate world traditionally looked at the Hispanic population as a market for its own products, that is changing, said Ms. Tallman.

“We are now evolving  into a provider of services, a vendor to other companies within the area, the state and nationally,” she said.

 Among the local Hispanic-owned companies that have landed contracts with large corporations in Atlanta are Interprint Communications Inc. a marketing firm in Decatur, Willis Mechanical Inc. a Norcross industrial plumbing and heating and air contractor, and Latin Box, an advertising and design firm in Roswell, Ms. Tallman said,

 The chamber’s origins, in fact, can be traced to Atlanta’s largest company, Coca-Cola Co.

“One of the key people responsible for the formation of the chamber in Atlanta was Tony Flores, Hispanic marketing manager with Coca-Cola USA,”  Rudy Beserra, vice president of Latin affairs for Coca-Cola North America, told GlobalAtlanta.

Mr. Flores moved to Atlanta in 1980 from New York where he had worked with Hispanic chambers and helped form the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said Mr. Beserra. Mr. Flores invited the leadership of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber to Atlanta in 1981, laying the foundation for the Georgia Hispanic Chamber.

Mr. Besera sees a bright future for the chamber.

 “The Atlanta marketplace continues to grow every year, not only in population but in the number of small Hispanic- owned- and-operated businesses,” he said. “These new businesses are bringing new jobs and an international flair to an area that is home to some of the largest companies in the world. With the support of Coca-Cola and other Fortune 500 companies that understand the importance of Hispanics to the U.S. economy, the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is well positioned to serve the local business community for the next 25 years and beyond.”

For more on the chamber, click here.