NEW ASPEN INSTITUTE INITIATIVE TO SUPPORT HARD-HIT HISPANIC-OWNED BUSINESSES IN MIAMI
City Learning and Action Lab Launched in Five Latinx-Majority Communities Across the U.S.
The Aspen Institute Latinos & Society Program (AILAS) and Prospera are proud to announce Miami’s participation in the City Learning and Action Lab, a new, 12-month program presented by AILAS in partnership with the Drexel University’s Nowak Metro Finance Lab and Christopher Gergen, CEO of Impact investment firm Forward Impact and Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow.
“This is the first program of its kind focused on Latino majority cities and communities to strengthen local entrepreneurial ecosystems,” said Domenika Lynch, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Latinos & Society Program. “There’s tremendous innovation happening in Latino communities as they work to rebuild after Covid-19, but access to capital, capacity building, and collaboration are needed to scale impact. The City Learning and Action Lab empowers and enhances local leaders’ efforts to attract capital investment and resources to Latino communities where they live and operate. What is so exciting is that local funders are embracing our vision of curating Latino-centric communities to learn, innovate together, and connect to national networks to catalyze change in their local communities.”
Miami is part of a cohort of cities and communities that also includes Long Beach and San Bernardino in California, the Southwest side of Chicago in Illinois, and El Paso and San Antonio in Texas. The initiative is funded by public, corporate and individual philanthropic support, including: Angel Morales and Morales Capital; The Knight Foundation; the City of San Bernardino; Vanir Construction Management Inc.; Dr. J. Mario Molina; Secretary Henry Cisneros; the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation, and the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and other donors.
“Miami is a powerful market and a leader in finance, commerce, culture, arts, and international trade. But 81% of our businesses have fewer than 10 employees, among those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are delighted to play a role in this national conversation and to be selected for this new Aspen Institute initiative,” said Myrna Sonora, anchor host for the Miami Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Steering Committee and regional vice president at Prospera. “AILAS is investing national resources and leadership in our region’s post-pandemic recovery to support underserved businesses while allowing our local leaders and economic development experts to identify and drive the solutions.”
Under the Latino Business and Entrepreneurship Initiative, the City Learning and Action Lab kicked off in July 2021 with the participating communities to spur economic growth in regions where COVID-19 exacerbated long-existing inequities. The initiative is a hub and spoke model designed to support anchor organizations in each city to form an entrepreneurial ecosystem steering committee composed of key cross-sector leaders. Committee members will coalesce around strategic priorities and implement solutions to boost and sustain the local Hispanic business economy.
The following steering committee members have made a commitment and joined the pilot program on behalf of Miami:
- The Beacon Council President/CEO Michael Finney;
- City of Miami Human Services & Economic Initiatives Director William Porro;
- City of Doral Economic Developer Manuel Pila;
- North Bay Village City Manager Ralph Rosado;
- Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center at FIU Assistant Director Maria Ilcheva;
- The Knight Foundation Program Director Raul Moas;
- Morales Capital CEO Angel Morales;
- SBDC at FIU Director Brian Van Hook;
- CDC Allapattah Cooperative Executive Director Mileyka Burgos;
- Anchor Alliance Representative Lisa Martinez;
- Catalyst Miami Worker-Owned Enterprise Director De’Sean Weber;
- Healthy Little Havana Senior Program Manager Sofia Cuenca;
- T&G Constructors President Rick Gonzalez;
- ShadeFLA owner Margueritte Ramos;
- NEO Broadband co-owners Edmerson Vasquez and Gloria Martinez;
- Cargo International Consolidators owner Michelle Fajardo;
- Ascendus Florida Director Fabiana Estrada; and
- Prospera South Florida Vice President Myrna Sonora
Through the City Learning and Action Lab, the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University will work closely with the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society team to help local regions take stock of the number, size, and sector orientation of Latino-owned businesses. Together, they will identify opportunities and pain points to crack the code for business growth in Hispanic communities in a post-Covid economy.
Prior to the pandemic, Hispanic entrepreneurs accounted for the highest rate of new business creation in the U.S., growing at a rate of 34% in the past decade according to a study by the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative. The Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative also reported 86% of Hispanic-owned businesses experienced immediate negative effects of Covid-19 in the first months of the shutdown. According to the Brookings Institute, 80% of Hispanic-owned small and medium enterprises did not receive Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) financing, which has been crucial for businesses across the country.
For more information, please visit www.aspeninstitute.org/latinos-society, or follow on Twitter and Facebook @AspenLatinos.
For more information about Prospera, visit www.prosperausa.org or follow on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn @ProsperaUSA.
The Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program (AILAS), founded in 2015, provides a non-partisan, unbiased platform for shared learning across communities of influencers on the critical barriers preventing greater Latino achievement, and jointly surfaces new, innovative, and actionable solutions for a more prosperous future for all Americans. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org/latinos-society.
The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.
Prospera is an economic development, nonprofit organization that since 1991 has specialized in providing bilingual assistance to Hispanic entrepreneurs who want to start, sustain, and grow their business. In the last five years alone, Prospera has facilitated over $60 million in loans, trained over 20,000 entrepreneurs, and helped consulting clients create or retain over 16,000 jobs. It has offices in Florida’s central, south, and west coast regions, and in Charlotte, NC. For more information, visit www.prosperausa.org.