September 15, 2020
HENRY JIMENEZ: THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF LATINO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CENTER
1. How would you best summarize the current situation on Lake Street?
The Latino businesses on the Lake Street corridor are just now starting to see some support from the various funding streams that they have applied for, but not all applied or qualified. The Latino Economic Development Center assisted over 100 businesses to apply to 1-4 different funding opportunities. Some of these include state, county, city and foundations. However, all of the businesses are experiencing significant economic setbacks from limiting hours of operations and decline of sales (50% of what they were making prior to COVID).
It’s important that we all continue to advocate to provide financial assistance that is not in the form of loans to keep as many Latino businesses solvent through next year.
LEDC is now also distributing $2.7 million in housing assistance and trying to focus on the employees of the small businesses that we work with. Nevertheless, this is a program that is available for anyone in MN.
2. What do you think the biggest challenge will be in this rebuilding process for the Lake Street Corridor?
One of the challenges I see is most of the attention from organizations and government seem to be focused on particular sites with high impact due to their size and location. While I think this is a must, it is important to recognize that buildings or properties that were not damaged are also now for sale and house Latino businesses.
The strategy we are taking at LEDC is to stay alert to those and provide as much technical assistance to the Latino business owners who may be interested in purchasing their buildings. Right now, we need more community participation and expertise in commercial real estate.
3. What’s being done to retain the cultural and historic aspects of Lake Street?
We protect our culture by protecting and supporting businesses that reflect our values, who provide us with the products and services needed by our community.
Cultural districts have been approved by the Minneapolis City Council which is an initiative led by Council member Alondra Cano. These are important policy steps that are being taken to help preserve our culture and history in these vital economic corridors.
4. What is giving business owners hope to stay?
What I keep hearing from many Latino and immigrant business owners is, “we came here with not much and were able to start successful businesses with limited help or resources from anyone so that we could provide for our families. We have done it before to rise up from difficult times and we will do it again”. However, this time we as LEDC and community need to step up a little bit more to help and support our Latino businesses through this time.
5. Can you give us an idea of how long this will take?
I think this will take time. It has taken everyone several months to get back and running while others are still not operating at nearly the same numbers as they were prior to March. However, a much bigger and deeper issue than COVID19 has been uncovered and it’s the systemic barriers that have hindered the Latino and immigrant business sector and that to me, will continue to take time to unravel and address; but bigger strides towards a more equitable and inclusive economy I hope is in the horizon.
6. Describe how important it is for Lake Street to be kept for our Latinx community? What’s at stake?
Lake street is the home for hundreds of Latino businesses and their families. It has been revitalized by the hard work, entrepreneurship spirit and tenacity of our people and other immigrant community members.
This is how we protect our culture, traditions, and our spaces.