Taking Care of Business


Lea Márquez Peterson
president and CEO of the Tucson's Hispanic Chamber
of Commerce, has nearly tripled membership since she took over in 2009. Photo by Kris Hanning.

Taking Care of Business

     “Growing up, my parents always told me I could accomplish anything I set my mind to,” recalls Lea Márquez Peterson. “I was raised to take risks and seek out opportunities.” Today, she is president/CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (THCC) and the owner of the Márquez Peterson Group, a business brokerage firm. She also sits on a number of boards and is married with two children. With little free time, it’s no wonder she also is a speed-reader!
As president of the chamber, Márquez Peterson manages personnel, daily operations, programs and events, as well as acting as media spokesperson. Additionally, she handles community relations and serves as a business advocate.
     She became president of the THCC in August 2009. Under her leadership, the chamber has grown from 380 to more than 1050 members. “We are open to any business or non-profit; you do not have to be Hispanic to join,” she emphasizes. “However, our focus is on how to reach the fast-growing Hispanic market and the importance of international trade.
     “I am a ‘connector.’ I work with businesses that have a need and connect them with resources or find partnerships that can help them. One reason the chamber has grown is because we have really listened to members of the business community and created programs or provided resources to help them survive and grow during this economic downturn.”
     A challenge for the THCC these days is to differentiate themselves from the other 60 chambers in the state of Arizona. “We need to make sure people understand our priorities and the importance of both the Hispanic market and international trade,” she observes. Her goals include growing on a regional basis (in Santa Cruz and Cochise counties) and encouraging the international trade presence in Sonora, Mexico.
     Márquez Peterson was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but her family moved to Tucson — where her dad had roots — when she was about one. “I come from a long line of entrepreneurs,” she recalls. “My grandparents owned a number of businesses in Tucson, and I always wanted to own my own business.”
     She received her bachelor’s in marketing/entrepreneurship from the University of Arizona, and her master’s in business administration from Pepperdine University.
     She owned a number of gas stations and served as the executive director of Greater Tucson Leadership before taking the helm of the chamber.
     Husband Dan is the vice president and general manager of CareMore, a health care program. They met when they were both members of a co-ed business fraternity at the University of Arizona. “He was a pledge and I was the pledge trainer, but there was no hazing,” she says with a laugh. After they married in 1992, they moved to Los Angeles for career reasons. However, once they decided to have children, the couple moved back to Tucson to be close to family. Their daughter Emma is now 14 and son Luke is seven.
     “I protect my evenings and weekends for family. We enjoy camping, spending time at our cabin on Mount Lemmon, going to movies and traveling.” She loves to read and usually has several books going at once. “I was a big believer in ‘real’ books, but now I am hooked on downloading books from the Pima County Public Library onto my iPad,” she jokes.
     In 2011, Márquez Peterson was appointed to the National Women’s Business Council, which advises the President, Congress and the Small Business Administration on issues facing women business owners. She also sits on a number of boards, including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Vantage West Credit Union and the Pima County Workforce Investment Board.
     She is a past president of the Tucson chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. “One of the main issues facing women business owners is access to capital,” she observes. “Women need the ability to get loans to grow their businesses, and not just use their credit cards. Women and Hispanic business owners also need to have a ‘seat at the table’ and serve on key commissions and boards, both locally and nationally. I am very passionate about having diverse voices serve on boards and task forces.”
     Márquez Peterson has won numerous awards, including the 2012 University of Arizona’s Alumni Association’s Distinguished Citizen Award and the 2011 Arizona Minority Business Advocate of the Year. Her proudest accomplishment (besides the birth of her children) was the THCC being named the National Large Chamber of the Year by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in September 2013. “I went to the conference in Chicago with the chamber’s executive committee. We knew we were a finalist, but we didn’t know ahead of time that we had won!” — Wendy Sweet

 




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