In August, influential Hispanic business group CAMACOL expanded its services in west Miami-Dade in a collaborative venture with the City of Doral. Four months later, officials said their goal to help steer the local economy through the pandemic and beyond still stands.
CAMACOL, or the Latin Chamber of Commerce, is one of the largest minority chambers in the country and the largest Hispanic business organization in the state. According to its website, its programs “strengthen local business activity, promote economic development, facilitate international commerce and serve the civic needs of the community and state” and have been doing so for almost five decades.
Doral, according to the city’s 2019 economic report and a study by the Florida International University Metropolitan Center, has one of the fastest-growing economies locally and is responsible for 53,151 jobs, $5.4 billion in sales, and 4% of the total gross product in Miami-Dade since 2011. It is especially successful in hospitality and international trade.
The pandemic took a toll on that success, but Doral is now bouncing back, said Manuel Pila, city economic development chief.
“Our restaurants, hotels, gyms, events facilities and other industries that are oriented toward serving the public have experienced the most difficulties,” he said. “Even our trade and logistics sectors have been affected, especially in the earlier phase of the pandemic, though we have seen more bounce-back in the past few months in those general categories.”
The introduction of CAMACOL, Mr. Pila said, has helped bring to Doral a new network of executives with experience in different industries that can help businesses reinvent themselves amidst the pandemic.
One of those executives is the CEO, Pete De La Torre, who has more than 20 years’ experience working in the Doral business sector, launching the Business Forum Group at Doral in 2016.
“What we are trying to do here [with CAMACOL Doral] is first and foremost work with businesses at all levels: large, medium and small, but especially focusing on the small businesses that have been impacted in a very tough way because of COVID-19,” he said.
Mr. Pila said the group is offering monthly virtual town hall meetings on various topics – including hospitality, real estate and healthcare – to help local business owners and entrepreneurs.
“These events have offered insight into the state of these industries in our city, and the ways in which some key movers and shakers are responding to the pandemic,” he said.
And Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez said the partnership is a boon for all parties involved.
“With this partnership with an organization with such good history like CAMACOL, we want to give businesses the assets to not just deal with this pandemic but to learn how to get better once we get out of it. My hope for the future is that we have a true partner in the non-profit business community that can give these resources to our city’s businesses,” he said.
Mr. De La Torre acknowledged that the impacts of the partnership are yet to be seen, but he remains optimistic that they will be seeing results by the first quarter of 2021. However, he said, there has been tremendous interest and press coverage of the virtual events.
“There’s not a lot of results so far, because it is still early, but when you look at the combined experience of the team at CAMACOL, including myself, we believe we’ve got a track record of being able to help businesses in the past. Now with this new initiative, we want to continue doing it and listening to what the businesses really want and need,” he said.
The overall goal, said Mr. De La Torre, is to help maintain Doral’s upward trajectory.
“Doral is the fastest-growing city in the state and probably one of the fastest in the country, but they don’t have an economic development department, so their growth is more organic,” he said. “What we want to do in the future is continue that growth, but in a more planned type of way.”