Those who follow their passions in their careers stand a good chance not only of becoming successful but of enjoying what they do every day.
A case in point is Miriam Huertas, senior vice president for the Allentown Chamber of Commerce.
She has been living and working in Allentown for more than 40 years and still feels a sense of enthusiasm for her career and pride in the city.
In her leadership role, Huertas is committed to reaching out to all business people in the city, from established, long-term business owners to fresh up-and-comers.
“I live here, so I think that it’s not only a passion of mine but it’s something I am deeply committed to…the success of Allentown for everybody,” Huertas said. “I do love this city. I want to see it be as great as it can be. I care about the people here, all the people.”
Born in Puerto Rico, Huertas came to America in 1962. Not knowing the English language was cumbersome, she remembered, but coming from a big family helped. She has six sisters and two brothers.
In 1973, when Huertas was still an 18-year-old student in the Bethlehem school district, she began working at PPL in Allentown and moved to the city that same year.
“I went to school at night and got a degree,” Huertas said. “I knew I needed a higher education.”
Her degree was in industrial psychology from Moravian College in Bethlehem, which led to a job at PPL as an economic development director. She went on to become director of planning and economic development in Easton before joining the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2007.
Huertas said she was going to work for a firm in San Diego until she got a call from Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“The rest is history,” she said.
Though her job is supporting the business community, Huertas said she also feels she is good at being a voice for that community.
“Being open-minded and being able to approach people is important,” Huertas said.
Huertas has two staff people at the chamber and leads two boards – the Allentown Chamber and the Downtown Allentown Business Alliance.
She said she has a feel for what people really need and stays involved with helping the community. Allentown’s annual Blues, Brews & Barbeque festival is an example of a chamber initiative that brings the whole community together and has a direct business development component. The event, which brings about 20,000 people to downtown Allentown, is now in its 12th year. The Chamber and the city’s Downtown Allentown Business Alliance have led the festival for five years, she said.
“I always tried to incorporate music into what I do because I think music is a really good uniter,” Huertas said.
She admits to being a leader who won’t ask anyone to do any more than she’s willing to do herself.
“I think I’m very engaged and really stay focused,” Huertas. “I was the first person to graduate from college in my family. I have this internal drive. I don’t know when I am going to stop but I don’t think it’s anytime soon.”
While the business community is at the forefront of that focus, Huertas also sees the need to bring education to the table to identify future leaders and members of the workforce. Right now, she and others on her boards are working with the Allentown school district’s superintendent to see what those needs are.
She also wrote a proposal for a Lehigh University fellow, a yearlong program that would allow a graduate student to work with smaller, often-overlooked independent business owners in the city.
“These are people in the background and there’s a real need,” Huertas said. “Why aren’t we better connected to these people?”
Huertas hopes to develop programs that would benefit them and help them be successful. She wants to find out more about who they are, what they do and how they do it.
It’s about bringing more people into the fold and being more inclusive, she added.
“I think at the end of the day we have to step up to the plate,” Huertas said. “We all want to do the right things in life.”
And how does one find that passion and put it to work?
“Pick something that you really love. If you love something, it’s not really work,” she said.