Executive edge: Diedra Garcia
Diedra Garcia, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver (and a ColoradoBiz CEO of the Year finalist) was born in Las Vegas, N.M., and moved to Denver when her father enrolled in law school at the University of Denver. Her father returned to New Mexico, leaving her mother and grandmother to raise Garcia and her two sisters in a Southwest Denver neighborhood. Garcia, now 49, took the reins of the 2,300-member Chamber in February after leaving DRG Construction Corp., a commercial contracting firm she operated with her now ex-husband.
What was your first job?
At 14, I was a receptionist for the Democratic House of Representatives. From there I went to work piercing ears in a kiosk in the middle of Villa Italia mall. I also sold shoes at Fontious and worked as an intern at Mile High Cablevision.
It took you 10 years to earn a college degree and then you returned to Regis University to earn a master’s in leadership and organizational development.
It took time because I was balancing school, work and family. But I’ve always set goals for myself. My life has always felt like an upward trajectory. I’m committed to lifelong learning; that’s my passion. I’m still eager to learn about leadership and examples of leadership in the Hispanic community.
How did you happen upon the Chamber position?
I sat on the Chamber board for several years and advocated for minority companies, so when the job came open my phone started blowing up. Everyone knew I had run a small business and this is no different.
What is the Chamber’s mission?
It’s our job to advocate for Hispanic business. We do that by focusing on creating jobs for Hispanics and creating business opportunities for Hispanic companies. And, in the broader focus, ‘What are we doing to contribute to a thriving environment for companies who do business in Hispanic markets?’
What’s the growth rate of Hispanic businesses?
People are opening shop at quadruple the rate of non-Hispanic businesses. A lot of these are professional services and in IT.
You are featured in a pro-fracking television ad. How did that come about?
As a Chamber, our board voted to support the energy industry because we believe it is a well-paying job-creator for Hispanics and African Americans. And I believe the industry is safe from an environmental standpoint, so when they asked, I agreed to do the spot.