West Kendall insurance agent Jorge Peña has devoted musch of the past six years of his life to helping grow the business community in West Kendall.
In January, Peña will reassume the position he held for the first four years at the West Kendall Business Association (WKBA) — chair. The former president and founder of the WKBA, Peña, an insurance agent with Aflac, will take over as chair for one year when current chair Frank Irizarry steps down at the end of December.
For Peña, taking over the reins of the WKBA again is something he proudly accepts.
“It is truly a joy for me to accept this position and return to grow and expand the association to greater heights,” Peña said. “We’re all volunteers here but we are all very passionate about what we do at the West Kendall Business Association, which is attract new businesses to the area.”
Peña is no stranger to leading business associations.
A graduate of Coral Park High School and alumnus of Miami Dade College’s Kendall Campus, Cuban-born Peña first ventured into production design and printing for The Miami Herald and managed his own printing company in Coconut Grove before joining the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce as a member of the board of directors and eventually as a trustee.
Peña then became an active board member of Chamber South. By this time, he already had switched from printing to the insurance business.
A West Kendall resident, Peña wanted to promote his insurance business closer to home and founded the WKBA. When the association formed in 2006, the nonprofit organization, formerly known as the Tamiami Airport Business Association, boasted 13 members. The group grew to about 100 members in its first year and now boasts more than 300 members.
“Before this association existed, West Kendall had no representation, no chamber of commerce, nowhere to meet and do business,” Peña said. “There were no businesses in the area, no stores or restaurants. Everyone used to go east to Dadeland, Pinecrest and South Miami to do their shopping.”
But Peña said that all started to change when London Square was built.
“Now suddenly we have all these stores and restaurants in the area and we’ve become more self-sufficient as a community,” Peña said. “We’ve changed the traffic patterns. Instead of driving east, more and more people are now staying in the area.”
West Kendall is roughly bounded by SW 56th Street to SW 152nd Street and everything west of Florida’s Turnpike extension. The area has attracted about a quarter of a million residents and has the most public schools in any concentrated area, Peña said. Kendall- Tamiami Executive Airport is the center point of the West Kendall area.
The WKBA recently conducted its sixth annual West Kendall Business Expo at Lexus of West Kendall at SW 136th Street and 137th Avenue next to the airport.
The expo, aimed at drawing new businesses to the area and new members to the association, previously took place at Signature Gardens before it was sold and closed at the end of 2010.
It is one of several events the WKBA conducts annually to attract new blood to West Kendall, including monthly networking luncheons every second Tuesday of the month at alternating member businesses and every last Thursday of the month at the Grand Salon at Killian Palms Country Club, 9950 SW 104 St.
“The West Kendall Business Association has certainly done a lot of good for the community and much of that is attributed to the leadership of its founder, Jorge Peña,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez, whose district includes West Kendall. “Jorge is a beacon of not only the association but of the West Kendall business community he helped develop. I have no doubt he will help the association accomplish many more great things next year.”
Peña hopes through aggressive marketing of the association, the WKBA’s membership will grow to at least 400 members by the end of 2012.
“It can be done,” Peña said. “Many exciting things will happen next year, none of which I can reveal now. But I can tell you I’m happy to lead this association in the coming year and hopefully attract more members in 2012.”