The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce has named financial consultant Maria Salinas as its new chief executive and president, making her the first Latino and first woman to lead the 130-year-old organization.
Salinas, 52, replaces longtime head Gary Toebben. She takes over in August.
Salinas currently runs Salinas Consulting, a finance and accounting project management firm. Before founding that company in 2006, she served in various leadership positions at Walt Disney Co. She is also chair of the Board of Regents at Loyola Marymount University, according to a news release.
“Maria has the unique combination of financial acumen and sound leadership skills paired with an entrepreneurial spirit that makes her the perfect choice to lead the chamber,” Michelle Kerrick, the chamber’s board chair, said in a statement.
Salinas said she plans to reach out to people and businesses that might not feel connected to the chamber, including the Latino business community, young entrepreneurs and those in upstart industries such as technology.
“What I hope to do is take a bold role in bringing the chamber out to communities,” she said.
As incoming chief executive, the Los Angeles native will run an organization with more than 1,600 member companies. The group lobbies government on the members’ behalf and offers development services, including help with business leads and programs that seek to train tomorrow’s workforce.
In an interview, Salinas declined to detail specific policies or initiatives she wants to take on, noting she has yet to start and wants to first “dive in” to the various programs the chamber has.
However, she did say helping small businesses will be an important part of her tenure. It’s something she says she is qualified to do as a small-business owner and former chairwoman of ProAmérica Bank, which was acquired by downtown’s Pacific Commerce Bank in 2016.
“One of the No. 1 issues for small business is access to capital,” she said. “I hope to be able to offer solutions and growth opportunities with a particular focus on some of the areas that might be challenges for small businesses.”
The high cost of housing is another critical issue facing local companies, including her own, she said.