May 21, 2024

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Gabriel Castillo.
Gabriel Castillo received the gavel from the forme chairman of Board of Directors Mike Marasco.
IBC Bank’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Gabriel Castillo officially was handed the gavel to become the new chairman of the board for the Laredo Chamber of Commerce.
Gabriel Castillo is the ne
The Laredo Chamber of Commerce has a new chairman of its Board of Directors, and as he started his new tenure on Tuesday night, he made it sure to have a very ambitious goal of growing the 700 membership organization to 1,000 or more.
IBC Bank’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Gabriel Castillo officially was handed the gavel to become the new chairman of the board for the Laredo Chamber of Commerce this week. He states that he is very prepared for his one year tenure and for his ambitious goal thanks to the previous two chairmen Mike Marasco and Cliffe Killam, serving as mentors and preparing him for his turn.
“Fortunately, I have been on both sides,” Castillo said. “I used to have my own business, and then at some point I worked for other businesses, worked for a nonprofit and worked for a for-profit, so I think my experience helps and guides me to see what is best for our community and how we can help do more for everyone.”
“The little guy needs our help just as much as the big guy, and quite frankly the big guy can always help out the little guy. The idea is to create a united front so that we can do more for our city, and we should take the honor of business and think of the city as a whole, think of the economy as a whole and do what we can.”
In 2022, the Laredo Chamber of Commerce reported a historic milestone as they reported 700 members in their organization. However, for the incoming chairperson, 700 might be good, but he is looking forward to add at least 300 more.
“That is my goal. I am not sure if it will happen, but it is my goal,” Castillo said. “We should always have goals about moving ahead, to do our best and to reach high goals, and it takes a group effort. I am not going to do it by myself, as we need a whole team, but we have a good team of people who are very hardworking on the board and also very hardworking at the Chamber.”
Castillo is a native Laredoan who considers to have seen “the good, bad and ugly” of Laredo. He states that businesses and nonprofits like the Laredo Chamber of Commerce must be in constant contact with the local government such as City Council in efforts to forge solutions for the issues that matter.
During his tenure, Castillo will try to see what he can do to revive the downtown area and help the area’s councilmember, as he states that the business life there is doing poorly due to the economic effects of the pandemic, inflation and other economic problems.
Castillo states that he comes in a time of challenge and he understands how all of these factors affect businesses of all sizes. The main threats he sees is continued high inflation, high interest rates and other global issues impacting local economies.
“One thing that we do is that we try to be positive and be solution makers — not just point fingers but look for perfection in everything and make things better,” Castillo said. “Go from good to great, and I am hoping that it is what happens with the Chamber as I move forward and try to do my best to lead it in a new path.”
Gabriela Morales, president and CEO of the Laredo Chamber of Commerce, spoke about Castillo’s involvement and hard work with Laredo community.
“I know that he is very involved with the community, and I know that he has also done wonderful things not only for IBC but also Laredo Center for the Arts and other nonprofit organizations around the city,” she said. “He has also been part of our executive committee for many years, so I have seen hands-on his involvement and his love for the Laredo community. I am looking forward to working very closely together with him.”
According to Morales, even prior to him taking the gavel as official chairman, she and Castillo had already been strategizing various business ideas that they believe the local business industry would be “very interested about.” She also firmly believes that with his leadership the organization will be able to reach their 1,000- member goal.
“It will be achieved, because we know that the call of action to improve our city is out there and the business community knows about us,” Morales said. “They know that if they are to join, they will contribute to the greater good: to more jobs, employment and opportunities.”
Castillo states that his type of leadership can be described as “relentless.” He states that his tenacity to continue working hard, moving forward and reaching high goals is what has defined the way he works.
During his first official speech as the new chairman, Castillo mentioned the importance of Laredo’s role on a global scale.
“We can’t just live and adjust to what Texas does or the United States does, especially in Laredo, because we are probably the leaders in NAFTA. So beyond Mexico and beyond Canada, we have to look at our world globally for sure,” Castillo said. “This is because we depend on every country, and if every country is stable then we are going to do right. If there is an unstable country, or there is instability whether it be in Europe or Asia, we are going to feel it too.”
Castillo states that this is why businesses and organizations like the Chamber must work with leaders in efforts to continue positive trends, so businesses and supply chains do not get disrupted. He intends to continue working with District VIII Councilmember Alyssa Cigarroa to make sure to develop downtown economically, as he states that it is an area of immense need and an area he has loved dearly since he was young.
Castillo states that the main thing he likes about Laredo is the people, and he does not believe the criticisms that state that all of the people of the city are the same. Despite a lack of diversity — the city is 95% Hispanic — that does not mean there are not differences between the people.
“Even though they say that we are all the same, we are not,” Castillo said. “Everybody is different, which is what makes this world so great and makes Laredo so great. But now with new hospitals, businesses and hotels, all of the business world that comes in we see diversity. It is good to see different people working together trying to do the best they can as we learn from each other, and that is the important thing, that we never stop learning. We should always continue learning from each other.”
Castillo thinks that this is not difficult, as in the city there are many people who have the entrepreneurial spirit.
“I think it is the spirit of people just living with confidence … and also having a strong work ethic, and I think that is a thing that we have as Hispanics,” Castillo said. “As Hispanics, we believe in hard work, we believe in dedication, we believe in family, so all of those things culminate to make us work harder, to do better, be focused and dedicated to our jobs, to our family and to our people, community, and I think that is why you see more entrepreneurs here taking a chance.”
Jorge A. Vela is a native Laredoan who studied at Laredo College and Texas State earning a bachelor’s degree in mass communication. After a stint of working for several publications, other local media outlets and managing his own tutoring business for years, Vela decided to get back into journalism by working as a general assignments reporter for the Laredo Morning Times. He loves spending time with la familia, soccer, cooking and jamming out


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