Los Angeles officials proclaimed it a major coup when the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce last week decided to hold its annual convention here in 2002.

While the event is expected to draw some 10,000 attendees, it will only generate $1.2 million to $1.3 million in direct revenues for the L.A. economy, according to analysts. That's because, due to the heavy concentration of Latino-owned businesses in Southern California, most of the conventioneers will not stay in hotels.

Nonetheless, the major convention, which hasn't been held in Los Angeles since 1987, is expected to yield less-tangible benefits. Most notably, it will provide local Latino-owned businesses with a prime opportunity to showcase themselves to Fortune 500 corporations, most of which are headquartered thousands of miles away.

"Part of the benefit of the convention is to educate these corporations and government entities who are ignorant about Southern California and what it means," said Hector Barreto, a Los Angeles financial services broker who is on the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board and fought to bring the convention here.

Besides mere networking in the hope of landing future business, plenty of actual contracts are expected to be inked during the confab, resulting in significant income for the 1.4 million Latino businesses represented by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber nearly half of which are in California. "My goal would be (for convention-goers) to do $100 million in orders," Barreto said.

Given the concentration of Latino-owned businesses in Los Angeles, it's somewhat surprising that more than a decade has passed since the Washington, D.C.-based chamber last held its convention here. Southern California has the largest concentration of Latinos and Latino-owned businesses in the country.

Originally, the Hawaii Hispanic Chamber of Commerce got the nod to hold the annual four-day Latino gathering in Honolulu. But the chamber pulled out last month because corporate sponsorship was lacking, leaving the bid open to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Upon hearing about the opportunity, Barreto worked closely with the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau to put together an attractive package that would make the city the clear winner.

In the end, the convention bureau undercut Las Vegas' proposal by offering a 50 percent discount on the cost of using the Convention Center. The chamber's board voted unanimously last week to come to Los Angeles.

In February, the National Association of Music Merchants convention, which had 60,000 attendees, brought in $12 million. So did this month's Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, convention, said Junior Tavuaa, a research analyst with the L.A. Convention & Visitors Bureau.

And the Democratic National Convention this August is expected to contribute $40 million to the local economy.

Though the Hispanic Chamber event won't bring in nearly that much, local Latino leaders say the long-term benefits of the confab will be immeasurable.

"This convention will give us a platform to communicate all the things that are happening in our region," Barreto said.

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