Because many Filipinos in the U.S. already have successful professional careers, many are hesitant to engage in entrepreneurial activity, said Ray Donato, the Philippines’ Atlanta-based honorary consul general for the Southeast.

But the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, an organization Mr. Donato advises, hopes that with a new strategy and fresh personnel, it can help change that mindset and get Filipinos thinking more globally, said Sonny de Hitta, the chamber’s new president.

Mr. de Hitta, inducted as president at a Jan. 12 dinner, said that Filipino immigrants are often passive toward entrepreneurial activity because they have stable careers here, working as skilled professionals in medicine, insurance or other sectors.

“We are comfortable. We have our professions, and we have our kids going to Georgia Tech,” he said, characterizing Filipino life in Atlanta. “I just want to show them that there’s this other side.”

Membership in the chamber dwindled over the past few years down to the current level of about 100, largely because local businesspeople were solely networking among themselves rather than engaging in more macro-level economic activity, he said.

Mr. de Hitta and Mr. Donato agreed that the chamber’s mission should be to inspire Filipino businesspeople in Atlanta to think in terms finding a trade niche in a bilateral Georgia-Philippines relationship, rather than maintaining the inward focus that has long been the status quo in the Filipino community.

“We want to act as a conduit between the Georgia businesses and Philippines businesses, to find out what their needs and wants are and marry them together,” Mr. de Hitta said.

Mr. de Hitta, who is working to boost membership in the chamber, said he has sent e-mails to a variety of companies in the Philippines and has started surface negotiations with a chamber of commerce on the island of Cebu, an emerging economic center in the Philippines.

He wants to create a type of sister relationship there to get Filipino businesses more in tune with Georgia, and vice versa.

According to Mr. Donato, that type of outreach is necessary in a state home to only one Filipino company. RV Industries, a wholly owned subsidiary of Philippines-based Fiesta Brands, processes imported coconuts at an Atlanta plant to be sold to confectionary companies.

That company is relatively unknown in Atlanta, testifying to a lack of awareness about ingenuity in the Filipino business community, Mr. Donato said.

“Nobody knows it exists here,” he said.

In addition to his consular duties, Mr. Donato also runs AHD International, an American company that imports the banaba leaf from the Philippines to be used in herbal teas. Having retired from a career in the energy sector, Mr. Donato is practicing what he preaches—that more Filipinos should take the somewhat risky leap into starting and owning new enterprises.

Didi O’Connor, who headed up the chamber as president in 2004, agreed that there is indeed a dearth of entrepreneurship in the Filipino community, but she said that some are waking up to the possibility of import and export businesses.

Citing projections from 2006 census figures, Mr. Donato said the Filipino population is more than 20,000-strong in Georgia. As the outreach coordinator for the chamber, Ms. O’Connor is working to give natives of the Southeast Asian nation an impact fitting of their substantial population here.

Ms. O’Connor, a retired biochemical researcher at Emory University who now works in real estate with Harry Norman Realtors, has a long history representing the Filipino community at the meetings of economic development agencies around Atlanta.

She served as the president of the Filipino-American Association during the 1996 Olympic Games, a bustling era for bi-national organizations in Atlanta. Now, she represents the chamber at the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, as well as in other venues.

“We tend to be invisible, and we are improving in our visibility in the community and outside the community,” Ms. O’Connor said. “Every time there is a meeting I’m there and I make sure I make noises.”

Willy Gaa, the Philippines’ ambassador to the U.S., visited Atlanta to make keynote remarks at the chamber’s launch dinner and induction of new officers.

Mr. de Hitta said he has spoken with the Philippine Embassy in Washington about getting a trade attaché to help the chamber plan its strategy for turning Filipinos’ professional success into entrepreneurial ventures.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...