Janessa Calderon’s young career so far has led her to exactly the perfect place.
The 26-year-old native of Muscatine is the new executive director (and the youngest Latina in the job) of the Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GQCHCC). After more than two years working for the nonprofit, the board promoted Calderon to the position – its only paid staff -- effective Dec. 1.
She succeeds Zenaida Landeros, the first Latina executive director of the chamber, who resigned last spring to become executive director of the Black Hawk College Quad-Cities Foundation.
Founded in October 2008, the Hispanic Chamber has a mission to support, promote, and enhance the growth and success of local businesses and to leverage the community's assets, contributions, and unique Hispanic cultural identity to generate new business. The Q-C Hispanic Chamber supports and promotes the success of its members through networking, advocacy, and leadership. The group not only includes businesses, but area nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and people of any background in the greater Quad-Cities region.
Calderon has served several leadership roles for the Hispanic Chamber since 2018 – first as programs and events manager and growing into the membership engagement coordinator in 2019. As executive director, one of her priorities is to be the hub of resources for any level of the chamber’s business members.
“The Hispanic chamber is important because we act as a connector to the Latino community we have access to. It’s important for corporate members to be involved, so we can build long-lasting relationships in the community.
“It’s important for small businesses to get involved so we can help with any bilingual translation or other services they might need. My main thing is, I pride myself on being a hub of resources, in building those relationships with each individual and making sure our chamber members are feeling supported. That’s
something I really have appreciated in growing into the role.”
A Moline High School alum, Calderon graduated from St. Ambrose University – with a bachelor’s in strategic communications, then earning a Master of Organizational Leadership degree from the College of Business in 2019. After getting her undergraduate degree, she worked from 2017-18 for St. Ambrose
as a Hispanic outreach admissions counselor, to increase Hispanic enrollment. That’s where she met the Hispanic chamber, which was “very welcoming.” Calderon says when she started in 2018, the staff grew, but things have contracted this year during Covid.
“With the pandemic, a lot of businesses are trying to restructure. The board has done a great job, and all the committees, in supporting anything I have going on, or any needs that I have. So in a way, I would consider the board more than just a board, in terms of what they do to help out.”
The annual gala was originally pushed back from April to September, but was postponed again due to Covid, and likely won’t be held until next September. Calderon enjoys working with local Hispanic businesses and groups.
“It’s been a really great bonding experience to talk to them more. I’m able to connect with them and ask what challenges are you facing today; what kind of resources do you feel like you need from me? Do you have questions about anything?”