By Elena Vasconez, Director, Business Development, Mi Casa Resource Center
There are few things more American than the entrepreneurial spirit of our country. That spirit is what inspires people to innovate and create some of the world's most important products and services. Some of our greatest Americans are business owners who have changed the world with the same entrepreneurial spirit that our Latino community possesses today.
At Mi Casa Resource Center, we strive to tap into the spirit of entrepreneurship in the Latino community by teaching our clients the skills needed to succeed, such as how to create business and marketing plans, negotiate contracts, and find the right investors. Eighty percent of aspiring entrepreneurs and current business owners who attend our business training classes are minorities. Throughout the years our clients have become pillars of their local economies because of what they have learned. In 2012, the Business Center at Mi Casa helped 650 small businesses; these businesses generated $10.1 million in revenue, accessed $1.2 million in capital, and created 129 new jobs.
Unfortunately, due to the indiscriminate cuts to federal funding that took effect in March because Congress couldn't agree on a budget deal, we had to significantly scale back many of our most successful programs aimed at supporting small businesses. Sequestration contributed to a 10 percent cut to Mi Casa's loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA). In short, Washington's failure to pass a fair budget is suppressing the Latino entrepreneurial spirit in Denver. Mi Casa will have to reduce the number of business training classes, workshops, and one-on-one counseling sessions offered to the business community next year.
An example of this impact will be seen in the business training classes for aspiring entrepreneurs and existing business owners. Each of these classes trained 30 to 35 participants. In the next fiscal year, the number of workshops offered will be cut by half; 120 to 140 fewer entrepreneurs will be able to access services that they need to see their dreams of being business owners become a reality.
It's not just grants from the SBA or the state of Colorado that are in danger. Matching funds from private investors are also at risk. Our partners in Denver work with us to increase the number of small businesses opening their doors in parts of Denver that are in desperate need of economic stimulus, such as Morrison Road and Santa Fe Drive. Our partners have indicated that sequestration through cuts to the federal Community Development Block Grant program will most likely decrease their capacity to provide services in these areas.
When there are fewer Latino business owners, not only does Denver's economy suffer, the economy of the entire Denver metro area suffers. This is not the way to keep the economy moving forward. At a time when Denver is a magnet for economic development, it is critical that grants for nonprofit organizations providing resources for aspiring business owners are protected, not slashed. Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy and deserve investment. If we want to sustain the American entrepreneurial spirit, we must demand that Congress put their partisan bickering aside and show the leadership needed to solve our budget woes.
This was first posted to the NCLR Blog.