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A dream comes true this week for Don Salazar and Robert Rendon.

For nine years, they worked relentlessly to get the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to bring its annual convention to Salt Lake City. Their persistence paid off.

Up to 7,000 members of the organization are expected to fill Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City Monday and Tuesday, participating in seminars, networking and listening to a group of speakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Julián Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Maria Contreras-Sweet, who runs the U.S. Small Business Administration, also will address conventioneers and plans to meet with a group of Salt Lake City Hispanic business people during her visit.

"Hosting this convention is a tremendous honor," said Salazar, 61, an Ogden construction company owner and convention chairman. He also will become the association's chairman-elect at the session and then serve as chairman in 2016.

"Who would think a Utah boy would take a position like this?" he quipped, adding, "it's truly humbling. When you're the chair of an organization that has 3.2 million members, 200 local chambers, over 200 corporate partners and a multitude of different associations, it can be intimidating. But I relish the challenge."

Getting an organization as large as the Hispanic Chamber to meet in a smaller city was a challenge, too, pitting Salt Lake City against cities like Chicago and Philadelphia.

But Salazar, co-founder of the Ogden Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, kept plugging away at it with able assistance from Rendon, a senior vice president for Zions Bank, and other Salt Lake Hispanic Chamber leaders. Visit Salt Lake promoted the city hard, too, and Gov. Gary Herbert made a significant difference with a personal pitch to the national organization's executive board, he said.

"If Utah wasn't so fiscally sound and one of the top places to do business in the country, this [meeting] wouldn't have happened here," added Salazar, founder and president of Creative Times Inc., which has worked on more than 1,000 projects for public sector agencies such as the U.S. Air Force, General Services Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

He said Hispanic business people in Utah could benefit greatly by attending sessions, maintaining that "something will occur that will impact your bottom line. Even the networking — it's like speed dating for business. If you want to get up close and personal with some big national players, there are opportunities here you wouldn't get elsewhere."

Salazar said he is confident conventioneers will be impressed by what they will find in Salt Lake City, from the geographic setting and opulent hotel accommodations to the character of Utah's Hispanic business community.

"Hispanic businesses in Utah are vibrant. They're energetic. They've gone through the litmus test and passed. They mirror what's happened nationally," he said.

Added Rendon: "This is really about American business. All Hispanic businesses pay taxes. They put people to work. They give back to the community. It's all about American business — and that we're proud to be Hispanic."

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