The Aspen Institute Latinos & Society Program (AILAS) has partnered with a group of economic and community development organizations across El Paso to launch ACCELERATE El Paso.
Officials say the initiative will use a data-driven and community informed approach to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the city’s Latino small business economy and accelerate its immediate recovery and long-term equitable growth.
The initiative is a collaborative effort in partnership with Bruce Katz and Drexel University’s Nowak Metro Finance Lab as well as Christopher Gergen, the CEO of the consulting and impact investment firm Forward Impact and an Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow.
ACCELERATE El Paso is structured around a three-pronged approach, which started with a comprehensive analysis of El Paso’s small business economy, with a particular focus on COVID-19’s impact on Latino-led businesses. The initiative is currently working to prepare an economic recovery and long-term growth plan for the local Latino business community with recommendations on how to leverage local investment with prospective federal stimulus funding and related opportunities.
The program will also build connections and cross-city learning opportunities with other Latino-majority cities that are also implementing related recovery and resiliency strategies.
“Latino-majority cities, including El Paso, have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this can be especially seen in our small business communities,” said Beto Pallares, President and CEO of Joseph Advisory Services.
“By May 2021 El Paso’s small business revenue was still 12% lower than pre-COVID levels. Through ACCELERATE El Paso, we can pool knowledge and resources to advance equitable small business recovery and increase access to capital, and target investment into critical commercial corridors.”
According to program officials, the Steering Committee is guiding the strategic planning process and federal relief coordination for ACCELERATE El Paso.
The Steering Committee is made up of more than 25 local business leaders from major private and public organizations, including the Medical Center of the Americas, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, the City of El Paso, and El Paso County.
Officials say input from these leaders will guide the initiative’s long-term growth strategy for the city’s post-COVID recovery, align the region’s Latino small business growth priorities with state and national efforts, and leverage federal stimulus funding.
“Our Steering Committee will ensure that small businesses in El Paso receive the attention, guidance, and financial support needed to recover from a global pandemic that shook our region’s economy,” said Lupe Mares, Vice President of the Southwest Region at LiftFund.
“Historically, national data shows Latino-owned businesses have less access to capital and federal relief, and the COVID-19 pandemic only widened that gap. We need to ensure El Paso’s small business owners have equal access to the same economic opportunities and recovery funds.”
ACCELERATE El Paso is informed by national and regional data produced by UTEP’s Hunt Institute, a leader in economic analysis of the Paso del Norte region.
Initial fact sheets, available on the El Paso Business Strong website, already provide key metrics about El Paso’s economy and the business landscape, the state of Latino-owned businesses in El Paso, opportunities for growth, as well as national data on the impact of COVID-19 on Latino-owned businesses.
Last year, Hispanic-owned businesses had their PPP loans approved at nearly half the rate of White-owned businesses, 10 percent compared to 17 percent.
In June of this year, AILAS launched a 12-month City Learning and Action Lab to work with six Latino-majority communities to spur economic growth in regions where COVID-19 exacerbated long-existing inequities. The initial cohort of cities includes El Paso and San Antonio in Texas, Long Beach and San Bernardino in California, and the Southwest side of Chicago in Illinois, Phoenix and Miami.
“This initiative allows us to collaborate with local leaders to aid the Latino business community in recovering from the effects of the pandemic that are ongoing,” said Domenika Lynch, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society Program. “Latino-owned businesses are the backbone of the Borderplex region’s economy and it is important to give them the tools they need to optimize growth.”