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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Education, Business Driving Hispanic Chamber Leader

Harry Garewal’s short bio says his mother “insisted” that he finish high school. She had two mandates: One, never mark your body with tattoos, and two, get a high school diploma.

When Garewal was 13 his mother contracted tuberculosis and was away from the family for several years. If Garewal and his brother and sisters were going to graduate from high school as their mom requested, they needed to begin watering the education seed for themselves.

Luckily for Garewal, he fell in love. It was during a study hall in his junior year that he discovered algebra—”and that just fired me up,” he said.

A high school diploma, two bachelor’s degrees and an MBA later, Garewal is the president and chief executive of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, celebrating five years in the post this July. He laughs about his mom’s insistance in education.

She was a “pachuca from Glendale,” he said, defining a pachuca as a “barrio girl”—”today I guess you would call them ‘homegirls.’”

Garewal’s mother, who passed away in 2002, had a tattoo on her hand representing her neighborhood and for that reason she admonished tattoos, saying one day her son would become a public figure.

“It hit me how prophetic my mother had been,” he said.

In addition to careers in business, government and nonprofit, Garewal is a motivational speaker for youth and also an active advocate for education and the Hispanic community, speaking in front of groups as large as 2,500. His volunteer work has included serving 14 years on the Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board and, on the national level, the executive committee of the National School Boards Association.

Throughout his career Garewal has met presidents Clinton and Bush Jr., Colin Powell, Bishop Desmond Tutu and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“I’ve had a blessed life,” he said.

Friends and colleagues say the secret of his success is not only an impressive resume and intuitive business sense but he’s a personable, likeable demeanor. He’s described as “dedicated,” “kind,” “intelligent,” and “on top of everything.”
“He’s able to make people feel comfortable around him,” said George Young, Garewal’s long-time friend and collaborator of a number of projects on behalf of the City of Phoenix. “The other wonderful part about Harry is he’s a big proponent of education. Harry’s dedication is just unbelievable.”

George Brooks, publisher of Nxt Horizon magazine, agreed, echoing others’ comments about the high level of support Garewal has provided to minority-owned businesses through the chamber.

According to Garewal there are 195,000 small businesses throughout Arizona and 35,000 of them are owned by Hispanics. Currently the statewide Hispanic Chamber boasts 650 members, but Garewal isn’t satisfied: he still has a fire in his belly. His goal is to grow the chamber’s membership until it’s the largest chamber in the state.

And then … who knows?

Garewal’s ties to Phoenix, and in particular the South Mountain area run long and deep. He moved to Phoenix in 1970 with his wife and two children and began a 23-year career working for large aerospace manufacturing companies and small defense contracting companies. In this capacity he helped establish what today is the Goodrich Corporation’s aeroospace manufacturing facility on 5th Street south of the Gila River.

Garewal then went to work for the City of Phoenix in economic development. In that capacity he helped bring revitalization to Target Area B, which is the city’s single largest redevelopment project. South Mountain residents are familiar with Target Area B: the parameters are 7th Ave. to 24th Street from east to west and Broadway Rd. to Southern Ave. running north to south.

Garewal left a successful economic development and consulting business to vy for the top seat at the Chamber, competing against 40 other candidates. At the time his business was going so well that people thought he was crazy to walk away … but he had a vision for the chamber.

“I had a very good understanding of the potential of this organization,” he said. “I really felt compelled to come to the chamber.”

Now he is content to continue this professional trajectory. His goal yet to be attained is simple and honest: “To make sure that I’m a good, contributing citizen to the state of Arizona,” he said. “Personally, I just love this state.”

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