Hispanic Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) Kansas City, MO
“Our program, which is bilingual and bicultural, builds support systems for local business owners from inception to mature operation. Just as immigrants to this part of the United States did in earlier waves of migration, today’s Latino entrepreneurs are not only creating and providing jobs in their community, but their businesses and the foot traffic they attract are restoring vitality and a sense of neighborhood to once-desolate downtown areas.” - Bernardo Ramirez, HEDC Executive Director
Founded in 1993, the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) helps immigrant entrepreneurs in Kansas City realize their business potential through business development training and a small-business incubator program.
HEDC’s offerings are bilingual and bicultural, providing entrepreneurs guidance from initial start-up through advising them on matters of regulations, expansion, and marketing. It has assisted in the growth of more than 1,100 new immigrant Latino businesses, from restaurants and auto repair shops to accounting and architectural design firms. HEDC’s model focuses on building bridges between immigrant commercial enclaves and the broader community.
As individual businesses have taken root and prospered in non-traditional locations, this new development has helped bring economic vitality to once-languishing areas of Kansas City.
HEDC developed the innovative Primer Paso (Spanish for First Step) program, a business training course that teaches would-be entrepreneurs everything from preparing feasibility and marketing plans to determining pricing and assessing the potential market for their products or services. The 12-week course is taught by certified instructors.
HEDC also now offers a computer learning center through a grant from the Department of Commerce. The lab is one of the few in all of Missouri that offers computer classes in Spanish, drawing students from areas well beyond Kansas City.
The HEDC model showcases the powerful economic results that can come from the successful integration of immigrants in the business sector. HEDC’s services allow immigrant entrepreneurs to demonstrate their power to create jobs and revitalize once-distressed urban areas, helping them to navigate start-up and regulatory processes and then go on to operate successful businesses.
HEDC’s work demonstrates the value that a smart, targeted effort aimed at helping immigrants integrate into U.S. society can have in sparking economic revitalization, breathing new vitality into an important city in the U.S. heartland.
Bernardo Ramirez is Executive Director of the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) in Kansas City, MO, and has more than 20 years experience working with community-based organizations and advocating on behalf of Americans of Hispanic descent.
Prior to joining HEDC, Mr. Ramirez
was Associate Director of Finance and Development for the Guadalupe Centers, Inc (GCI) and was
responsible for the agency’s operations, including areas such as information technology, human resources, and facilities management.
From 1997 through 2001, Mr. Ramirez was Deputy Vice President for the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR), Office of Technical Assistance and Constituency Support in its Washington, D.C. headquarters. He managed and coordinated the programs of NCLR’s five regional offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C. Prior to that, he served as Director of NCLR’s Midwest Regional Office in Chicago, providing various levels of assistance to more than 50 NCLR Midwest affiliates.
Mr. Ramirez has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Rockhurst College in Kansas City. He was appointed by Kansas City Mayor Sylvester "Sly" James to the KCMO Pension Funds Task Force. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of Kansas City, the EDC Loan Corporation, the Full Employment Council, the United Way of Greater Kansas City, the Northland Community Foundation of North Kansas City, and the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders.