The past few months have been a whirlwind for Jessica Cavazos.

She gave birth to her third child a little more than two months ago, and last week she took over as executive director of the 226-member Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County. Cavazos admits life has been hectic but is up for the challenge.

“When I was initially approached about the job, I was eight months pregnant at the time and was thinking my career more was on hold with a baby on the way,” Cavazos said. But she was encouraged to pursue the opportunity by several of her professional contacts from Madison.

Now just a few days into the job, Cavazos is ready to make an impact. A focus of the chamber is to help Latino entrepreneurs launch businesses, create jobs and help the regional economy prosper.

Cavazos said she plans to meet with chamber staff and board members to learn more about their organization’s vision.

“A goal of mine is to create partnerships and build our membership,” she said.

Cavazos said she wants to meet with as many chamber members as possible, not only to get to know them but to find ways to help them grow.

“It will help me to get to know their (businesses’) ailments and what we can do as a chamber to make them stronger and more vibrant,” she said.

One opportunity for the Latino chamber could be in redeveloping abandoned or blighted commercial sites, Cavazos said.

“Just driving around Madison, it seems there are many opportunities where there once were thriving store fronts that have just fallen into disarray,” she said. “I feel chambers should be more involved in economic development for blighted areas, which can be made into a place to develop small businesses.”

Mayra Medrano, president of the Latino chamber board, said the organization was drawn to Cavazos’ experience, adding her “enthusiasm and vision will add a whole new dimension to the continued success of our chamber.”

Cavazos most recently served as president of the Eleva Group, a Milwaukee-based organization she helped launch that created social programs and helped nonprofits.

She brings experience in government relations, policy, community engagement and business development, having spent eight years as a congressional liaison for U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore of Milwaukee.

Cavazos has advocated for the Latino community throughout her career.

She served as secretary and board member of the National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives Midwest Region and coordinator for the Central Region’s Federal Diversity Committee.

She also is the former state director of woman’s activities for the League of United Latin American Citizens in Wisconsin.


Larry Avila is a business reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.