The Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 17th annual awards gala attracted more than 1,000 attendees June 25 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.

The event, which recognized Georgia businesses and businesspeople for their outstanding leadership in the Hispanic community, was organized by the chamber, which was founded in Atlanta 21 years ago.

The chamber also welcomed honored guests to the gala including United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Marcel Boisard, Argentine Vice President Daniel Scioli and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Mr. Perdue, who spoke at the event, underscored the chamber’s importance to securing Atlanta as the headquarters for the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

“[Georgia Hispanic] Chamber members have been some of our most effective ambassadors for our FTAA bid,” he said, noting that Atlanta-based Hispanics have facilitated economic and political relationships between their home countries and Georgia.

He also recognized the contributions local Hispanics have made to the state’s economy, noting job generation and economic growth.

Businesspeople and companies that have contributed to the growing Hispanic community were honored at the gala. They included Home Depot Inc., corporation of the year, represented by Chair and CEO Robert L. Nardelli; Abaco Mortgage Group, business of the year having more than 10 employees, represented by Patricia Boezio and Benjamin Rincon; Casablanca Publishing Inc., business of the year with 10 or fewer employees, co-founded by Zaida Gonzalez; Lily Z. Winsaft, businesswoman of the year, founder of Aldebaran Associates International and Ralph de la Vega, businessman of the year, COO of Cingular Wireless LLC.

Also honored was Luis A. Aguilar, partner with McKenna Long and Aldridge LLP, who was recognized as member of the year. Esther Adames-Jimenez, principal of Beaver Ridge Elementary School; Cristina Franco, consultant for the Georgia Office of Minority Health/Office of Community Health and Patti M. Richards, attorney and CPA with Richards Law Firm LLC, received special recognition awards. Stites and Harbison PLLC, led by partner R. Daniel Douglass, also received special recognition.

According to the chamber, more than 9,000 small business loans in Georgia were granted to Hispanic-run companies in 2002. In addition, the purchasing power of Hispanics in the state has grown 710 percent to $10.9 billion since 1990, the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth reported.

The chamber has grown from 175 members in 1984 to more than 1,000 members. In addition to holding its annual gala, the chamber has held a trade show for the past four years that showcases Hispanic businesses.

In 2001 it opened the Hispanic American Center for Economic Development (HACED), which offers incubator programs to emerging Hispanic companies in Georgia, and in January 2005 it helped launch the Argentine Chamber of Commerce.

For more information about the chamber, visit the Web site Contact the organization by phone at (404) 929-9998.