The Hispanic Economic Development Corp. shared some of their accomplishments and goals of their agency. This year’s event was more about people and how they came together to help homeowners and area businesses lower their tax assessments. HEDC president Pedro Zamora presented the Community Impact Award to Charles Lona, Preston Smith, Angie Ricono and Gerard “Jerry” Roseburrough.



BY JOE ARCE AND COREY CRABLE


On the first Monday of the month of December, the Hispanic Economic Development Corp. (HEDC) celebrated their 26 years of service to the metro at the Boulevard brewery on Kansas City Westside neighborhood. A room full of clients, city officials and guests came to learn how HEDC and other agencies, residents, community leaders and community activists came together to challenge the increase of property taxes in Jackson county pointing out the unfairness of the increases that range from 100 percent to over 500 percent increase. Over the past summer, community meeting were held and taxpayers challenged the Jackson County executive Frank White and county legislatures to do the right thing by lowering property tax bills.


HEDC director Pedro Zamora told Hispanic News, “This year in 2019 we were pressed not only on the Westside, but all over the city with the Jackson county issue. We recognized the city at large… the underserved, the elderly, immigrants and those who didn’t speak English need assistance as well… then we realized we could not do this alone with the group on the Westside.” According to Zamora they reached out to a larger group of people and to the professionals in the real estate market, Legal Aid, “It was a collective group of a very diverse people that came together to outreach and to help ease the pain of the folks of losing their homes and this group demonstrated that community bonding,”said Zamora.


HEDC acknowledged with an award many of those who got involved by helping those who needed a helping hand and others who fought for lowering people property taxes.


Also HEDC gave an update on renovations on its long-dormant headquarters building, which will eventually become a place where small business owners can learn how to grow their enterprise.


Situated on 2720 Jarboe Street, construction equipment has begun turning over soil and stripping the building down to its frame, adding a new roof and now as you drive by you can see the new windows that were place in late November. What will emerge after the project concludes will be a facility the HEDC has dubbed its Center for Urban Enterprise.


“(Four years ago), we asked our neighbors what they would like to see,” explains Pedro Zamora, HEDC executive director, adding that residents surrounding the old building wanted to “bring life back” into the area. “There weren’t places Latinos could go to with bilingual training for workforce development, as well as support they would need to help grow their business.”


A 12,000 square-foot addition to the building will serve the back-office needs of small business owners in the food service industry, Zamora says, bringing the new building’s square footage up to 122,000.


“We will anchor the facility with an affordable commercial kitchen rental space, which restaurant industry folks can rent by the hour,” Zamora says of the facility’s incubator program for small business owners. “We will have five unique kitchens they can use to grow their home business or expand their catering business or food trucks. We will have the abilities for packaging and distribution as well.”


Zamora adds that the facility also will have cold storage space where clients can keep their food, as well as a dedicated space where operators of delivery trucks can sanitize their vehicles. The facility’s staff will be bilingual and able to assist business owners with nearly every element of business operation, from production to packing and distribution to using technology to expand their reach and their audience. Zamora says the center’s staff will even help their clients navigate the often-confusing world of food service industry rules and regulations.


“We know the industry is difficult, and there are a lot of regulations out there. … But this center will offer services for them,” he says, adding that certification programs offered by the center will ensure clients become experts in knowing and meeting those regulations.


Response to the center has already been positive – in fact, Zamora says, he has already been in contact with seven potential clients who would like to use the facility’s space and resources when construction is finished.


“We have seven signed letters of intent from businesses interested in coming in, from a baker to someone who wants to have a long-term contract to do catering,” Zamora notes. “They’re home-based, and they believe this is an opportunity for them to scale up.”


Interest only continues to grow, he adds.


“Once we explain what we’re doing, (potential clients) have an, ‘Oh wow’ moment,” Zamora says. “And they want to come in and meet with potential clients and potential business partners, and they’re happy.”


One key to the success of the new center will be its status as a place where business owners in the neighborhood’s immediate vicinity can come to work, and to learn how to run their business more efficiently. More local employees will be better for the city and its workforce overall, he believes.


“We need to educate and hire residents of Kansas City versus bringing in people from the outside and saying we’re having market growth,” Zamora says. “Having it in a neighborhood is a critical component. We know the public school system has caused a delay in producing talent in Kansas City. We’re helping the adults understand they can learn. We’re removing the barriers so they can understand how to code or solve a problem they are dealing with today. It’s applying what we’re teaching them to solve a problem that is preventing them from accelerating their income.”


In addition to the incubator program and rental space for businesses steeped in the food service industry, Zamora says the renovated building also will include a large lecture hall and a space where clients can receive bilingual training on technology, among other features.


Zamora and his employees have even designed a new logo for the HEDC, as well as a logo for the center itself.


“We’ve expanded, and we don’t just serve Mexican nationals,” Zamora says of the HEDC. “We’re serving Central and South American clients, too. If you look at the logo, there is a dot that represents the starting point. That’s the fresh image we wanted to bring.”


He continues, “The Center for Urban Enterprise also didn’t have a logo, so we launched that in September – our campaign of identifying our services and the organizational pieces of HEDC. One can do a lot of work, but all together will be more economically impactful. … Our logos are unique, and the wraparound services are captured (in them). It’s innovative because at any given time, our clients can go through our services at any point in their life.”


The services, the classes, the renovations – they are all part of HEDC’s mission to arm business owners with the tools, resources, and knowledge they need in order to build their brand.


“When a business client comes in and they bring an unknown business partner, they know HEDC is behind them to navigate the partnership they want to create,” Zamora says. “We provide that back-office support. We’re here to help them be successful.


For more information on the Center for Urban Enterprise, visit www.kchedc.org.