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LOAN WOES SPUR FORMATION OF A CHAMBER

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When Juan Balli couldn't get a loan for his small business, he became determined to establish a local network for Hispanic businesses.

Eighteen months later, Balli is the president of the new Ogden Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.Local Bank One manager Paul Petersen donated the space for the office, which officially became the fifth branch of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Nov. 9.

Last year, when Balli's business began foundering, he made the rounds at local banks seeking a loan to tide him over. What he found was that lenders were not anxious to invest in his business, partly, he said, due to skepticism over the prospects for a Hispanic-owned company.

"When a Hispanic walks into a bank or lending company and says . . . lend me some money, it goes in one ear and out the other. There's no trust, there's no belief we can make it in business," Balli said.

After having experienced the apparent inequity firsthand, Balli was driven to make some changes.

"There seems to just be sort of a lack of interest in the Hispanic community," he said of existing programs. "We're not only crop pickers and janitors. We're also professionals and business owners."

Some of the group's immediate goals include attracting businesses to the area that are interested in targeting Utah's Hispanic market or making connections for trade in Latin America.