By Nan Price, Content Manager, MetroHartford Alliance
Hartford Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julio Concepción “lives and breathes Hartford.”
JULIO CONCEPCIÓN: I essentially grew up in this city, I moved here from Puerto Rico when I was very young. My parents were both educators here in Hartford and, while we lived in East Hartford, we spent the majority of time in the city. We loved it—the people, the culture, the food.
My dad was highly involved in a lot of nonprofits in Hartford, so I was uniquely aware of some of the positives and negatives about the city. I knew I wanted to do everything I could to help out. After I graduated from the University of Connecticut, there was really one place I wanted to return to, which was the city of Hartford. When I moved back, I got involved with as many nonprofits in the city as possible.
What impact do you hope to make in the Hartford Region?
JULIO: The small business community really didn’t have a voice over the last couple of decades. It would independently share concerns with either the private or public communities, but there wasn’t a cohesive group that could lead the charge to make the business community here in the city of Hartford better.
The reinstallation of the Hartford Chamber of Commerce was something I thought was extremely important because of the impact it could have—not just in downtown, but really in the neighborhoods where a lot of the small business community, as I mentioned, didn’t have a voice when it came to things happening in and around the Hartford Region.
Building this new iteration of the Chamber was critical. It’s an important organization that will have a positive impact, again, not just here in the city of Hartford, but in the Hartford Region.
How have you become a part of Hartford and how has Hartford become a part of who you are?
JULIO: I live and breathe the city of Hartford! I live here, I work here, I’m raising my child here. It’s an important part of my life and anything I can do for the betterment of the city, its residents, and the business community is something I’m willing to do—whether it’s through the MetroHartford Alliance, the Chamber, or when I’m wearing my other hat as a State Legislator.
We can accomplish important things here in the city of Hartford, but you have to be inside the tent. You have to want to be involved. And, while Hartford is big enough to have all the amenities someone needs, it’s also small enough to actually see the impact you’re making here in the city.
What else makes Hartford unique?
JULIO: What makes Hartford really unique is our size. It’s 18 square miles with 17 neighborhoods, but each individual neighborhood has a feeling of its own, from the culture to the people to the food to the arts community. A lot of cities envy all the assets we have in such a small city.
How do you tell the story of Hartford?
JULIO: I tell it organically. I think it’s important for someone who actually lives and breathes the Hartford story to be able to talk intelligently about it.
Hartford is a city you really have to experience yourself. That’s one of our challenges—people make perceptions about a city without actually being involved in it or spending any time there. Our hardest job is to get individuals inside our borders here in the city of Hartford and experience everything it has to offer. And nine times out of 10, they’re going to have a wonderful experience and want to keep coming back. It’s my job, both on the Chamber and as state legislator, to help people understand the importance of their capital city.