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HEDC gearing up to repurpose building early next year

The Hispanic Economic Development Corp. and small business owners have just received a big boost in the form of a $1.6 million federal government grant designed to aid the funding of a proposed facility focused on entrepreneurship.

The grant, announced by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross earlier this month, would pay for more than one third of the HEDC’s proposed Center for Urban Enterprise, to be located in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood. The CUE will be housed within a large, vacant industrial building on Jarboe, just two blocks off of Southwest Boulevard. The building boasts 11,000 square feet of available space. Under the HEDC’s plan to repurpose the building, an additional 6,000 square feet could be added, according to Pedro Zamora, executive director of the HEDC. The HEDC has owned the building since 2009 and now uses it primarily for storage.

Zamora says the center, which will be the first of its kind in the metro area, will be focused on providing economic opportunities for the predominantly low-income residents of Kansas City, Mo., and that will help their businesses to enjoy steady growth.

“Lower-income entrepreneurs will get access to all (job-related) services within the Kansas City metro area, but it will be affordable to them,” Zamora notes. “We’ve been doing this for a long time. Everything we do touches Latino entrepreneurs. This is a matter of survival for them. Most of our clients have less than a seventh-grade education. (The CUE) would bring this concept of rapid introduction to high-level college classes (that are) facilitated to help Latino immigrants with their educational needs day to day.”

The project, which costs an estimated $3.5 million, has already drawn the financial support of the City of Kansas City and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Zamora says the building’s renovations are slated to begin in February, and that the HEDC’s goal is to “have no financial burden on our organization, our city and our community.”

In addition to commercial office space available to small business owners, Zamora says the center will be anchored by more than 5,500 square feet of kitchen space, as well as a dedicated space in which clients can learn how to incorporate and use evolving technologies into their businesses.

“This is a community oriented project,” Zamora says. “Our research, our feedback showed that our neighbors wanted this opened up to the community.”

Westside resident Jerry Roseburrough is one of those community members who will just be glad to see the building, viewed as a blight on the community for years, finally serve a purpose again.

“The building is sitting there empty. It’s an eyesore for the neighborhood,” says Roseburrough, 64, who has lived in the neighborhood his entire life. “I look out my front door and I see bricked-up windows, gang signs drawn on some of the doors. … You sit out on your front porch at night, and you’re looking at a brick building. There’s no life to it.”

Zamora says the U.S. government’s grant will go a long way in helping to change that.

“The neighborhood has embraced our concept,” he says. “We thought this was the best repurposing project that would meet our community’s needs.”

The good news doesn’t end there for small business owners, however. Earlier this month, the HEDC was also awarded a grant of more than $312,000 to provide micro-loans to small business owners and create new, full-time jobs for low-income residents.

According to an Oct. 9 press release from the HEDC, two local businesses, one in the carpentry industry and the other in the marketing industry, will receive part of those funds, which will lead to the creation of 16 new, full-time jobs.

For more information on the proposed center, call Zamora at (816) 221-3442.