Community stakeholders attended a panel discussion sponsored by the Latino Endowment Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving on economic development and its impact on the Latino community in Greater Hartford. The group gathered at Trinity College’s Mather Hall to learn about and discuss specific areas within economic development that impact Latinos: the importance of recruitment and retention of Latino professionals (especially younger professionals), the current state of economic development and future trends with workforce in Connecticut, the impact of small businesses, and local economic development strategies.
“The Latino Endowment Fund was pleased to be able to offer this important discussion on how we can further support and improve the overall economic climate of Latinos in Greater Hartford,” said Nelly Rojas Schwann, who serves as chair of the Latino Endowment Fund Steering Committee.
Moderated by the Latino Endowment Fund Steering Committee member and Goodwin College business professor, Dr. Ernesto Varela, the panelists included Patrick Flaherty, assistant director for research and information at the Connecticut Department of Labor, Carlos Figueroa, vice-president, Travelers Foundation and vice-president of Community Relations, Moraima Guiterrez, assistant district director for Economic Development at the Connecticut District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Tim Malone, principal planner for the Capitol Region Council of Governments.
Flaherty provided an overview of Connecticut’s current and projected labor market and specific information about Latinos in the workforce. Employment numbers for Latinos have increased significantly in recent years, which is consistent with the increased number of Latino’s in the state. Unfortunately, many of the current occupations held by Latinos in critical industries in our region, such as healthcare, show that those jobs will see their numbers decrease in the future. Flaherty emphasized the fact that many of fields projected to grow in the future will be jobs that require education beyond high school diplomas so greater efforts must be made to ensure that Latinos have more access to higher education and certification programs.
Figueroa discussed the intersection between a diverse workforce, community needs, and corporate interests, through a framework of giving and involvement. He discussed the challenges the insurance industry has faced in marketing career opportunities to professionals of color and younger professionals. In addition, he highlighted the strategy that Travelers uses in community relations as a solution -- develop and maintain robust employee involvement initiatives that align with Travelers’ community work along with talent recruitment, retention, diversity and development goals. Figueroa also discussed the importance of businesses to take a more pro-active role in not only recruiting more diverse talent, but also working to provide more opportunities for minority owned businesses to serve as contractors and suppliers for larger businesses. In addition to providing good salaries and benefits, professionals of color and younger professionals are also very interested in a company’s community outreach and philanthropic activities.
Guiterrez discussed efforts by the Small Business Administration to provide support, assistance and protect small business owners. She discussed the fact that 23 percent of all federal government contracts go to small business including more than 22,000 contracts totaling over $6 billion for Connecticut’s small businesses. Despite these positive numbers, only 150 of these federal contracts went to Latino-owned businesses totaling just $15 million. In 2016 the SBA made a total of 743 loans totaling over $235 million but only 35 went to Latinos totaling about $6.8 million. While federal support for Latino businesses was low, from 2006 to 2010 there were over 31,000 new immigrant business owners in the state and 18.5% of all Connecticut business owners were foreign born. Guiterrez shared that Connecticut and Massachusetts have the largest Latino populations in New England. She also discussed the fact that Latino businesses have increased by 155 percent from 2002 to 2012 and that 20 percent of all Latino business owners were under the age of 35 versus 14 percent for all business owners.
Malone discussed Metro Hartford’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the thirty municipalities in Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) and the town of Cromwell. Developed by CRCOG and the MetroHartford Alliance, it is a document and process that assesses the region’s current economy and offers improvement strategies. This process includes an analysis of the regions assets, including its strengths and weaknesses, and strategies to create a more vibrant economy. The CEDS must be updated every five years for the region to remain eligible for federal grant funding. CRCOG has begun the process of updating the 2012 CEDS, though this year will involve some bigger changes. This effort includes looking at such issues as ensuring there are family wage jobs and that employers have a labor pool. The new strategy will also focus on how to retain and attract people to the region, how to improve infrastructure and transportation to meet the future needs of the region’s residents and businesses. Malone discussed the need to place a greater emphasis on the needs of communities of color which has not been adequately addressed, if at all, in the past. To accomplish this, Malone asked Latino Endowment Fund members to make suggestions to bring Latino residents and business owners to the table to discuss the needs of the Latino community.
After the speakers made their presentations, attendees were encouraged to ask questions of the panelists. Many of these questions centered on the importance of bringing more resources and create more opportunities for Latino residents who wish to obtain employment or start a business. Participants expressed their interest in working to provide more creative solutions to empower Latino workers and businesses.
The Latino Endowment Fund was founded in 2003 by Latino leaders in Greater Hartford to increase philanthropy in their community and to strengthen nonprofits working to improve the quality of life for Latino residents. Members examine issues affecting the Latino community and recommend grants from the fund to address those issues. For more information, contact Wanda Correa at 860-548-1888 or firstname.lastname@example.org or go to hfpg.org/latino.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, established in 1925, is the community foundation for 29 communities in the Hartford region. It is dedicated to putting philanthropy into action to create lasting solutions that result in vibrant communities within the Greater Hartford region. It receives gifts from generous individuals, families and organizations, and in 2013 awarded grants of more than $29 million to a broad range of area nonprofits. For more information, visit hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.