Lydia Aranda Heads Hispanic Chamber

21 Mar 2019 by BizDESIGN in Entrepreneurs & Leaders, SPRING 2019

By April Bourie

A Third-Generation Community Leader

Lydia Aranda begins her leadership as CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce by focusing on “not only putting commerce into our communities, but ensuring that community is in our commerce,” she said.  

Her outlook on life was influenced by her parents, who were teachers and community advocates. She grew up in Tucson and Phoenix. Her extended family lived in Nogales and other areas of Southern Arizona – so her love for this region runs deep. She graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in intercultural communication and more recently completed a master’s degree at Claremont Lincoln University. She’s long been an advocate of small businesses, community involvement and a variety of ethnicities. 

Earlier in her career, Aranda served as the small business advocate for Gov. Janet Napolitano and co-chair of Gov. Jan Brewer’s Latino Council. She was VP and regional director of diverse segments at Wells Fargo. “This position was not limited to what the bank was doing, but allowed me to engage with the community to match traditional banking strategies with community needs,” Aranda said. “I focused on both urban and rural areas, which included outlying communities, border areas and a variety of other geographic regions that had very different needs.” 

These needs were often affected by the cultural and agricultural influences in the region. Her position allowed her to determine how to best match Wells Fargo’s resources with the community to promote development in the area. “We weren’t looking to just write checks. We were looking to co-invest in the community and to be enablers of the community, its programs, businesses and residents to provide more sustainability. It required me to consider cultures, ethnicities and businesses as well as the variety of ages of the residents – from youth to retirees. It was a full way of looking at community development.”

Her diverse career has prepared her to lead the THCC. “It gave me a good feel for what it means to be an entrepreneur and what entrepreneurs can offer the world. It’s true that small businesses are the engine that runs economies, but there are so many other aspects that small businesses offer communities to help their development, including influencing the culture of the community,” Aranda said. 

“Small business owners have more flexibility in solving problems, and that is very valuable when they use this agility as leaders among other businesses and elected officials to invest in their communities and solve community issues. We get a much more whole look at the issue and the community instead of just minds coming together.”  

Her own leadership style is influenced by two of her favorite books on leadership. “The Leadership Challenge” by Barry Z. Kouzes and James M. Posner focuses on enabling others to act and encouraging the heart. “Connection Culture” by Michael Lee Stallard points out the importance of the human connection affecting more than the bottom line and emphasizes that organizational and team success should be based on this key concept. 

“In this particular time of transition and change in the chamber’s lifespan, we are all being asked to do more with less – working smarter, not harder – and coming together around many new and unfamiliar experiences,” Aranda said. “I engage with building shared identity and empathy – and to me this is applicable not only to lead a team, but to our community as a whole. We are all interested in safer and healthier communities, a sustainable economy and success in our livelihoods. We can accomplish this through collaborative change – which requires us to connect, not separate from each other.”

As she leads the THCC into the future, she is focused on the sustainability of Southern Arizona resources, as well as its future. To that end, Aranda has created several new committees, including Entrepreneurship in Charter Schools, Best Futures Forward and the Clean Water and Energy Committee. 

“In my new role as CEO, one of the main areas of focus I would like everyone to consider, when going about their daily ebbs and flows of commerce, is what on our journey are we giving to our families and communities as a gift that will surpass ourselves and even our generation.  Each day we set ripples in motion in all directions, and we also receive back from the currents of others’ actions,” she said.