WESLEY CHAPEL — Between them, Pasco and Hernando counties already are served by six chambers of commerce.
Get ready to add a seventh.
A group from the two areas is preparing to launch the Pasco/Hernando Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
"There's not a Hispanic chamber anywhere in Pasco or Hernando," said Rocio "Rosie" Paulsen, owner of Good Faith Insurance in Wesley Chapel. The closest group is the Tampa Bay Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Paulsen got the idea to start one after going out on her own as an agent.
"A lot of the small businesses may not be completely bilingual," she said. "They may need information to be addressed in Spanish."
The group has nine members so far and plans a formal launch next month. Paulsen said she expects about 200 Latino business owners and guests to attend.
The group's stated purpose is to promote the professions and welfare of its members; provide a warm business environment; contribute to the creation and expansion of existing markets by assisting Hispanics in and relocating to the area; and improve the quality of life of the Hispanic community in Pasco and Hernando counties.
While the general population of Pasco County grew 16 percent between 2000 and 2004, according to U.S. Census figures, the Hispanic population grew by only 2 percent. It also estimated in 2004 that 8 percent of Pasco's population was Hispanic.
According to 2007 figures from the Pew Hispanic Center, Pasco's population is about 10 percent Hispanic, while Hernando's is 9 percent.
However, Paulsen said she thinks the latest census results will likely show greater growth.
"I think a lot of people are going to be in for a reality check," she said.
The group also aims to provide education and networking opportunities. It now is conducting a contest in conjunction with the Pasco County School District for the creation of its logo. The winner will be announced during the inaugural event in April.
A communication seminar by journalist Maria del Pilar Ortíz will be offered in Spanish from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 27.
The new chamber meets the third Thursday of each month at the Best Western Summer Crest hotel at 5639 Oakley Blvd. in Wesley Chapel. Paulsen said the group is still experimenting with meeting times to see what works best for members. She urged anyone interested in attending to contact her at (813) 909-6965 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new chamber joins the West Pasco, Hernando County, Central Pasco, Wesley Chapel, Dade City and Zephyrhills chambers of commerce.
Joey Wubbena, president of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce, said he wishes the new group well. However, he said the Dade City chamber has had Hispanic representation in its membership and on its board.
"Obviously they have a mission and need for their action," he said. "They certainly have the right to form their own chamber. Perhaps we can partner with them."
Researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.