By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition of August 2018
The leadership of Mission has brought a lot for its citizens. Their leaders are recognized as great promoters of the city and the region. Among the many good things is what they have done with the Anzalduas Bridge, a facility they help run along with the cities of McAllen and Hidalgo.
Just last year, on April 2017, a new professional joined this city to head the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce. He is Robert Rosell, President and CEO, originally from Waco, Texas, however he has been a resident of the Valley for the last fourteen years.
His idea from the beginning when he was hired, was to do better than his predecessor. Also, to show the nay-sayers that to do better is by showing results.
The job of a chamber president is no easy task. In his case, when Rosell took over the chamber, the entity was in full swing. You can imagine, it’s like boarding a vehicle running at full velocity while making the transition as smooth as possible.
Since then, together with his team, they continue to bring great events to promote the city and its members. They are always striving for the best.
Not even two years into this job and The Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce earned an Addy Award with the Go Mission campaign. Soon after, they got a state award during Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives (TCCE) Annual Conference in Grapevine Texas. According to Rosell, several years have passed with no significant honors for the chamber.
Last April, he applied for a scholarship to do some chamber executive management training, and he was the only one of four recipients in the nation to be awarded that scholarship. He said, “I was very thankful because without that scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to go to chamber executive management training.”
Rosell attended the University of Texas-Pan American and earned a master’s degree in Public Administration and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and English.
Before the chamber, he was a Corporate Compliance Officer for BBVA Compass, in which he was responsible for maintaining and improving many of the company’s major programs, product and service development, marketing and training materials, policies, and procedures.
He loves creating efficiency and effectiveness within organizations. His forte is team building and communication.
When he was hired by the chamber’s board of directors, he was already experienced in dealing with prominent community organizations. That is why, for him and his team, it has been easy to work with the City of Mission, the Mayor and the council. He has also established an excellent relationship with Mission Economic Development Corporation, and both entities work jointly to enhance Mission, each one respectively.
Rosell said that when he was with BBVA Compass, he enjoyed the corporate setting. “I think one of the proudest moments for me, was that I was able to get involved with the community.”
During that time, he served as the president of the volunteer chapter at the bank. “We would partner up with Chambers of Commerce to teach small business financial literacy, and that’s how I was around chambers.” He said, “I think one of our biggest accomplishments… well personally, is that in the past year, we increased membership by sixteen percent. And so, we are all very excited.”
Rosell said they now have over four hundred members; this is a milestone and there is a plan to celebrate such an accomplishment. So, if you are a member of the chamber, get ready for a celebration, and if you are not, today is an excellent time to join.
He also pointed out that members join the chamber for different reasons. “If it’s a small business and barely getting started, they want to join the chamber so that we can help them out with marketing and spread the word about their business.” He also said, “Larger businesses use their chamber membership for networking.”
Rosell recognizes that networking is the name of the game for the chamber because members can grow their business and meet other people in the industry in this community.
The Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce keeps a very tight work schedule. They have signature events that require extensive planning, and among them are All “Fore” The Kids Golf Tournament, Mega Winter Texan Fiesta, Chef’s BBQ Throwdown & Car Show, Mission Community Health Fair Annual Banquet, Mission Day in Austin, and Holiday Social.
That’s not all, they also have the ‘Buenas Tardes Luncheon’ a quarterly lunch event held four times a year. As leader of the chamber, he has participated in four of them already. The event features a keynote speaker that addresses particular issues of interest to business people. During his current tenure, he brought, Javier Palomarez, former US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Secretary of State, Rolando Pablos; Alberto Altamirano, the C.E.O. of Citi Flag, and Vince Young, former N.F.L. football player.
All of the four events were a success, but the last one with Vince Young brought people from all over the Valley. “Mayor (Norberto) Salinas at the time and the City Council were impressed that other cities are coming to support us,” Rosell said. The next Luncheon is Friday, September 14, 2018.
The work doesn’t stop there, under his leadership the chamber also provides business workshops to educate their members on topics such as human services, accounting, how to budget.
Another good addition for the members is to offer more benefits. “We’re going to be partnering with Sprint, and if you’re a chamber member, you get a discount with Sprint services just because you’re a chamber member.” He said, “Whenever we can provide those types of benefits, I think it makes more sense to join the Mission Chamber.”
Rosell and his team always look for suitable alternatives to benefit their members, for example, they are planning to bring on an investment firm to educate members on how to invest. He said, “They typically charge a fee for consultation; well they’re going to waive that consultation, it will be free exclusively for our members.” He noted that all these benefits are on top of what they already bring to the table.
Rosell was excited to share that by having the newly inaugurated Mission Events Center, it facilitates the in-house events more. He also said that the facility is more significant, beautiful and impressive. “We have our annual gala, which is coming up on Friday, October 5, 2018. We’re going to have it at the Mission Events Center, so we’re excited about that.”
The events center is now the general quarters for the more massive celebrations the chamber promotes. During our conversation, officially announced that the Health Fair that provides free health care services to the community and usually takes place on Sunday, it’s now moving to a Saturday. “I think it’s more accessible to everyone in Mission as we grow this successful event.”
Many people do not know, but the chamber also manages the tourism department for the city. When they are not doing business events, they are planning or celebrating the Mega Winter Texan Fiesta. “It’s a lot of work, and we’re constantly going and going and going,” Rosell said.
The Mega Winter Texan Fiesta is a huge event, it brings approximately three thousand Winter Texans from Mission and the Valley. According to Rosell, this event typically takes place at the Leo Peña Park, but this past year the park was under renovation, and the best available venue was the Center for Education and Economic Development better known as CEED. “Given the circumstances, we still had about three thousand people; always a great event because we have a lot of Winter Texans in Mission,” Rosell stated.
For those that do not know, Mission has developed a solid friendship with Mexico and beyond. This was started by former Mayor Arnaldo Ramirez, Sr., who served Mission from 1973-1981. According to former Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas, who served Mission from 1998-2018, he accompanied Mayor Ramirez to Mexico multiple times in search of new friendships. Once Mayor Salinas became mayor in 1998 he restarted the friendship project, and because of that, there is a yearly celebration called the Mayor’s International Brunch.
The Mission Chamber participates in this bi-national event. “We help the city with a little bit of marketing and the night before that event, we had a Sister Cities’ dinner at the chamber’s building.” He said, “We had about a hundred and eighty to two hundred people, from all over Mexico, join us for dinner.”
Rosell pointed out that a lot of the guests are political figures from the different states in Mexico and it’s just an excellent welcome event for that weekend for the Citrus Fiesta Parade.
What kind of hobbies does a chamber president have? In his case, he likes to run, he is currently training for a half marathon. “I’m a big sports guy; you know basketball, football. I’ve been playing golf for a little over two years. I mean, I attempt to play, but I’m not really good. And then, my wife Maribel and I like to travel. He has been married to Maribel for four years and they look forward to starting a family.
We’ve been to some places, and hopefully we will continue to go to more places,” he said.
He and Maribel have traveled to the Cayman Islands. Both were impressed with the crystalline beaches. “Last year right before I joined the chamber, I went to Mexico City. This trip opened my eyes because a lot of times people think that Mexico is dangerous. It’s such a beautiful city, there are so many things to do. It was safe, and so I always encourage people to visit Mexico City,” he said.
How do you balance your work with personal life? “Exercising is a big stress reliever. And then on the weekends when we don’t have a chamber event, I like to spend time with my wife and just really enjoy time together.”
How do you want to be remembered? “I want people just to remember me as a transparent, community-oriented person.”
Rosell has plans to continue increasing the membership as well as more events with benefits. “My goal is to reach out to former members that for one reason or another drop off their membership and to make sure to always welcome the new entrepreneur doing business in Mission.”