LEDC has successfully expanded opportunities for Latinos in both the Twin Cities and the Greater Metro area. Our work in these areas has helped us create culturally appropriate approaches regarding economic development strategies for Latinos. We have received requests to work with Latinos in a variety of outlying rural communities. With the rapid growth of Latino populations within these communities, the emerging opportunities for entrepreneurial endeavors have become increasingly clear. However, the services and support needed by these entrepreneurs requires a specialized set of skills. In order to adapt, the organizations which exist and seek to offer economic development opportunities to local Latino residents have sought advice and assistance in meeting this challenge.
In 2002 LEDC began providing technical assistance and training to existing service providers in rural communities and continues to invest resources and staff to achieve the goal of building local capacity for community organizing and economic development work with Latino entrepreneurs. Through our work with rural partners in these communities, we are seeing the evolution of a network which brings together the many segments of these towns.
(Pictured: representatives from the small business development centers, Blandin foundation and Initiative foundations)
After several years of work in
Willmar there is now a well established nonprofit organization: Willmar Area
Multicultural Marketplace (WAMM), which provides economic development services
to local Latino entrepreneurs. The organization is headed up by Roberto Valdez,
one of our community development / technical assistance provider trainees. We
are actively participating through a seat on the WAMM board of directors, and we
continue to provide technical assistance for the development of a Commercial
Kitchen Incubator Project they have undertaken. We have also facilitated the
establishment of a local association of Latina Women; Asociación Latina en
Acción, which is working to have a positive impact on community development,
community unity and personal development with the goals of participating locally
to make positive changes and get involved.
In St. Cloud our work began in early 2007 and continues to grow and develop. The trainee there, Jaime Villalaz, has a very large territory. His work covers nine counties, providing technical assistance as well as organizing and offering classes and workshops with the help of LEDC staff. His work with potential and start up entrepreneurs whose primary language is Spanish fills an important gap in services in these counties.
The current overview of the programs and activities being undertaken in the rural areas of Minnesota are best described as ongoing and strategically focused. We have learned much about these communities and the talent and resources which exist within them. We have developed our mission, based on experience and observations working with rural area resources and clients, and have provided a strong initial response to the needs of Latinos who reside in rural Minnesota.
With the creation of small businesses and building the capacity of the micro-entrepreneur, job creation is an expected result; we believe successful training and technical assistance for each business owner does not just create jobs but also boosts understanding of sound business operations and solid financial practices which benefit the whole community.
How a community operates can be learned from the process of starting and operating a business, but getting involved in community is how true leadership is learned. Through our efforts and those of our partners, we have begun to observe the beginnings of emerging Latino leadership through the interest in and formation of Latino business associations. We believe that with help and guidance these associations will become viable entities which have the capacity to provide Latino entrepreneurs with opportunities for themselves and the entire Latino community to become involved, find a voice, and participate as full and equal members of their respective communities.
Our goals for moving ahead with our rural work and the strategies which we expect to utilize have us focusing on continuing the development of our network of partners and redefining our expectations with regard to potential partners as well as the scope of their participation and an improved definition of community organizing and expected results.