Jose Rafael “Rafi” Rodriguez
President, Dayton Hispanic Chamber
President, Ohio Hispanic Chambers of Commerce
President, Rodriguez Financial Strategies, LLC
Retired colonel, United States Air Force
December 2011

My story: “I’m originally from Puerto Rico so I’m an American citizen by birth, but being out there on an island, it’s very different. I graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a degree in chemistry. Graduate of Air Force Institute of Technology, aeronautical engineering, and the University of West Florida for systems analysis.

In 2004, when I retired from the military, I engaged with the Hispanic Chamber. When I retired, I became president of the Puerto Rican Cultural Society of Dayton, and that got me involved with the arts and business commnuity. A couple of years later Dayton Hispanic Chamber, and in ’07 I became president of the Dayton Hispanic Chamber.”

On the Dayton Hispanic Chamber: “The main focus for me has been identifying the needs of the Hispanic business community and expanding the footprint of the Chamber throughout the city. We do mentoring sessions. We’ve been working with the city on getting companies certified so minority business enterprises can be able compete for different contracts at the city level. The main result has been the recognition the Dayton Hispanic Chamber has gotten as a true community partner. That we’re here, that we mean business, that we are a catalyst for action in the community.”

On the Chamber’s future: “We want to continue to develop the business community by offering more business-related know-how courses. Where to go for capital, how to better manage your business, courses in things like Quicken, how to best penetrate the local market… To me, that’s very big.

I want to continue to grow the partnership with major enterprises in the area with a history of recruiting Hispanic workers, like Home Depot and Premiere Health, and on and on. We’re trying to be a one-stop shop for the Hispanic community. That doesn’t mean we do it all, but we can funnel them all to where they need to be.”

On education: “I’m big on scholarships for kids; that’s one of my passions. Education levels the playing field for everybody and it’s the key to everything in this country. We partner with the League of United Latin American Citizens–LULAC–on a scholarship for Hispanic students, and LULAC gives matching funds. Last year we helped more than a dozen kids.

We want to continue to partner with academia so we can share with our members and their children. What’s happening with Sinclair, Wright State, UD, Wilberforce, Central State, Antioch… We have a partnership with all these colleges to help with recruiting Hispanic students.”

Why Dayton? “Dayton is family. My wife works at the base, and my daughter was going to Wright State University, and my son is going through Beavercreek High School. We decided to stay here because we believe this area is a great place to raise a family. Crime is very low. The transportation–you can get anywhere in a very short period of time on the roads. You have access to phenomenal entertainment in the Dayton arts. Food and clothing are cheap compared to bigger cities, and you can get a lot of house for your money. The quality of life is great here.”