The California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce will hold its 38th annual statewide convention for the first time in Sonoma County, Aug. 24-25 at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Rohnert Park.

Topics range from workshops for employers on worker’s compensation, access to capital and starting or growing a business, Latinas building communities, a Hispanic shark tank, and the cannabis industry and Hispanic small businesses.

The keynote speaker at the event is Hector V. Barreto, chairman of the statewide Latino Coalition, one of the largest advocacy groups in the country

Special guests include Cheech Marin, actor and activist. Cheech Marin is known for his cannabis-induced comedy act with partner Tommy Chong in the 1970’s. These days, he has a line of cannabis products. Another special guest is Ricardo Martinez of the Department of General Services.

Barreto was also the former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration under President George W. Bush.

He will be speaking at an international trade panel, on the importance of agreements like NAFTA and CAFA to California’s small businesses.

“There are four million Hispanic businesses in the U.S. with more than $700 billion in annual revenue, and one million of those are in California. We’re ground zero for Hispanic small businesses,” he said.

Barreto said he is often asked if the needs of Hispanic business owners differ from those of other business owners, and his answer is ‘no.’

“The needs are the same. They need more access to capital, training, and we can facilitate tools and strategies,” he said.

Each year, the convention attracts more than 3,000 entrepreneurs, small business advocates, corporate representatives, community leaders and government officials. This year’s theme is “Building Bridges for a Stronger Tomorrow.”

Participants can register online.

Attendees at the convention will also participate in workshops focused on employer’s and worker’s compensation issues, Hispanic Millennials and water in California, procurement opportunities for small business, strengthening the state’s Hispanic chambers of commerce network and business community, and the Latina Empresaria Awards Luncheon.

The cannabis industry and Hispanic small businesses is on the convention’s menu due to requests from members for information and education on the emerging industry, Barreto said.

“People need to be careful. They get excited about new opportunities but they can get taken advantage of. This is the new Gold Rush. We need to let people know what’s real, what’s possible, what the pitfalls are, and let them make informed decisions,” he said.

After the event there will also be a celebration party at 6 p.m. at the DoubleTree hotel. This event will feature a 20-minute roundtable with elected officials from Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa and Sonoma.

A golf tournament will also be held Aug. 23 with networking and sponsorship opportunities.

Event participants will also have an opportunity to pitch their business ideas in front of angel investors, and there will be a special luncheon for Latinas.

After the event, Aug. 26, the chamber will share the beauty and bounty of Sonoma County on a four-hour wine excursion.

Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at or call 707-521-4259.