Business, News

Listening session for Latino businesses

Dick Dalton, Regional Director for Massachusetts Office of Business Development and Alison Moronta, Loan Officer and Grant Program Manager, at MGCC speaking at the Latino Small Business Forum. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Dick Dalton, in a listening and discussion session for small local Latino businesses acknowledged that “Communities know what they need, more than the state does.”

Dalton, regional director of the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, was part of a listening session with small business owners, board members and local politicians at the North Shore Latino Business Association (NSLBA) building Monday night.

“This session is a much needed resource for small businesses which are the engines of our economy,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who referenced the city’s diversity in this talk with members of the NSLBA.

But the session raised questions about access to financing for startups, resources for organizations to offer, need for legal services, and language barrier accesses and resources. Dalton and Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation’s (MGCC) loan officer Alison Moronta talked about those issues, translating between English and Spanish.

Dalton, who has been in his position of regional director for only two years, acknowledged that the state considers these issues a priority now compared to years past. The state has also found it challenging to hold these sessions due to a lack of small business networks in the Latino community, which is where people such as Frances Martinez come in.

“The state is trying to redefine its role in how it deals with small businesses and trying to get their input, which is what we have been doing for the last two years,” Dalton said. “These sessions in different communities are good for us in helping to go back and start planning policy decisions that will benefit them and the state.”

The listening and discussion session was put together by the Massachusetts Office of Business Development in conjunction with Martinez, who is the founder and CEO of NSLBA.

Martinez, with the help of other small local business owners, established the association six years ago. “The biggest goal within this session is letting our small business owners know that they are being listened to and making sure they know that there is some opportunity for them,” she said. “We want them to know that we are here to help.”

Alberto Calvo, Chairman of NSLBA and the owner of Stop and Compare behind Lynn English High School, had a lot of faith in the benefits from this session. Calvo, who has been a local small business owner for 12 years, is seeking support from the state in training resources.

“Another aspect is trying to gain access to capital, such as low interest loans, to be able to allow small businesses to grow in capacity building and management,” he said.

Calvo said the main goal of NSLBA and this session is to create a link of resources among the Latino, Hispanic, and immigrant world of small businesses and American English-speaking business community.

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