Cancer forces Latino chamber chief to resign

A retired businessman who launched the Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce in February was forced to step down as president last month in order to decide how to treat the cancer that invaded his body.

Rich Lopez, who retired to the Grand Valley in 2011 after owning and operating printing businesses in Denver and Greeley during a 40-year career, was diagnosed with cancer following surgery.

Because of the illness, Lopez decided to leave his post as the chamber’s president, chamber Treasurer Louise Goodman said.

“He is considering his treatment options,” Goodman said.

In place of Lopez, chamber Vice President Abel Chavez will “try to move full speed ahead” as interim president, she said.

“Rich (Lopez) was the visionary of the Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce. He provided some great leadership and vision. He is going to be missed,” Chavez said.

The loss will not prevent the 7-month-old organization from conducting business as usual, he said.

In explaining his vision for the new chamber, Lopez released the following statement in May, “With the Latino population representing 16.7 percent of the U.S. population, we can show non-Latino business owners how to break into the Latino market.

“The chamber is open to anyone interested in learning about the importance of the area’s Latino community.”

Since its launch, the new chamber added 35 members and is working to promote its activities via social media, including Facebook.

Many members of the Latino chamber are also members of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Chavez said.

“The future looks bright,” he said, citing high attendance last week at the chamber’s monthly, rotating, after-hours networking event, which took place at La Bella Vita Spa Salon & Boutique, 533 Bogart Lane.

“We’re growing. We’re brand new. We’re trying to bridge the gap between non-Latino and Latino businesses and just provide a different venue,” Chavez said.

Chambers are built for improving business opportunities, but if they grow too fast, they could end up losing ground, he said.

“One piece of advice we got from somebody who’s done it before in another community, he says, ‘Don’t go too fast because what you do, you have to do it well.’

“So, we want to grow in baby steps. We do want to grow, but we don’t want to grow too fast where we’re not doing things well,” Chavez said.


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