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Friday, Aug 19, 2022
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SHELLY GARCIA Staff Reporter A group of San Fernando Valley executives is forming a new trade group to help small businesses address the changing demographics of the area. The group, called the Latin Business Coalition, will work with Latino-owned businesses as well as others who are struggling with the problems associated with an increasingly diverse population of consumers, its founders say. “We’re really there to help business people meet and learn from each other,” said Carlos Ferreyra, president of the coalition and owner of Dynamic Enterprises, a biomedical products trading company. Ferreyra, who also chairs a Van Nuys neighborhood council, said small businesses in the Valley face a complex set of dynamics that require entrepreneurs to become experts in a diverse set of disciplines. For example, he said, one local Mexican restaurant needed help developing an Armenian advertising campaign to target the large population that had moved into the neighborhood. At the same time, the group’s officials say, the needs of a growing group of Latino-owned businesses in the Valley are not being met by the Latin Business Association, an East L.A.-based group that seeks to promote Latino-owned businesses from San Diego to San Francisco. About 20 percent of the 1,200 members of the Latin Business Association are Valley-based businesses, according to Hector Barreto, chairman of the board of the LBA and owner of Barreto Insurance and Financial Services in East L.A. He said the group’s Valley meetings draw as many as 200 people. Barreto said he is not threatened by the presence of another group designed to serve Latino businesses. “There is plenty of room and need for many of these organizations to provide services,” he said. Indeed, the number of Latino-owned businesses in the Valley has increased dramatically since the recession of the early 1990s. When real estate prices in the area plummeted, many Latinos found themselves able to purchase homes, and the first-time homebuyers created a ready market for retailers in the community, according to Daniel Morales, program director for the Northeast Valley Business Assistance Center of the Valley Economic Development Center. Many of the Valley’s new Latino residents are first-generation immigrants who speak only Spanish and don’t yet understand the larger culture. “They tend to keep within the community,” Morales said. A locally based organization can help their businesses overcome cultural differences and language barriers, those who work with these businesses say. “We think there’s a real need,” said John Rooney, president of the VEDC. About 60 percent of the group’s clients are Latino, Rooney said. In the center’s Pacoima office, the number swells to 80 percent. Only two Valley communities Burbank and San Fernando are reported separately from the rest of Los Angeles in U.S. Census surveys of women- and minority-owned businesses. The number of Latino-owned businesses in Burbank jumped by 135 percent between 1987 and 1992, to 1,338 businesses. The city of San Fernando posted an 86 percent growth rate for the period, according to David Hayes-Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health at the UCLA School of Medicine. Valleywide, Hayes-Bautista estimates that the number of Latino businesses has surged 110 percent during the same five-year period. Countywide, there were about 210,000 Latino-owned businesses in 1997, double the amount five years earlier, he added. The numbers not only reflect the growth in businesses, but the large increase in the buying power of the Latino consumers, Hayes-Bautista said. “Almost any market-driven industry nowadays is asking itself, ‘Are we offering the proper products for a large Latino consumer base?’ Ten years ago, they weren’t asking that question,” he said. With these growth patterns in mind, the organizers of the Latin Business Coalition believe it’s important for Latino-owned businesses to align with others, regardless of ethnicity, said Gene Waldman, LBC founder and head of Waldman Event Production Co. in Van Nuys. Waldman is not Latino, and his musical event production firm does not focus on catering to that community. But he said his goals are consistent with those of the LBC. The goals of the association education, business development and advocacy are similar to what the Valley Industry and Commerce Association does on a much broader scale, he said. So why not simply work within VICA? “There are some people that don’t feel comfortable joining a very large organization,” Waldman said. “I’m a member of VICA and I don’t agree, but it’s something we hear.”

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