CENTRAL FALLS - The R.I. Economic Development Corporation praised a new Progreso Latino program – aimed at helping minority-run small businesses – as a crucial stepping stone to the state’s economic revitalization.
“[Investing] in urban areas will have a direct effect on economic recovery,” Keith W. Stokes, executive director of the EDC said at a press conference announcing the program on Tuesday.
“It’s where the people are, the workforce, the market, and opportunities,” he added.
Coordinated in collaboration with Urban Ventures and Macremi, the Progreso for Small Business initiative is funded with a $120,000 U.S. Small Business Administration grant and in-kind services.
Its intention is to help existing and startup businesses by counseling them on business plan development, marketing and access to capital. While the program looks to make specific efforts to recruit minority-run small businesses, it is open to any small business. In addition, it expects that experienced entrepreneurs will serve as mentors for those less experienced business owners.
Progreso for Small Business hopes to use the funds to help some 200 individuals, including Eric Misiak, a native of Poland who recently founded BB BuildBlock of Rhode Island, a company that sells insulating concrete forms, after starting and operating a construction company.
“I’ve been here long enough, but I understand the barrier of the Spanish-speaking community,” Misiak said. “New businesses need fostering and mentoring,” something he would be in a position to help out with.
Targeting ways to help small businesses grow is the centerpiece of the EDC’s Every Company Counts program.
Stokes said workforce training and identifying needs of early-stage businesses is a focus of its state-wide urban planning function.