“We’re looking at ways they can start and grow sustainable businesses with the little income they have as far as startup capital,” said Carmona, director of community and business development for the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation.
Set for a public groundbreaking 9 a.m. Monday at 2720 Jarboe St., the $3.5 million project has received a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to assist with construction of the new entrepreneur center in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood, near the Roasterie and Boulevard Brewing Company, Carmona said.
Work should be complete by fall 2018 — in time for the HEDC 25th anniversary celebration in November, he said. The organization is currently in a capital campaign to fill the funding gap for the project.
Within the local Hispanic community, startups often include service industry-related businesses like construction and cleaning, he said, but increasingly the HEDC is seeing need from within such professions as graphic design, marketing and programming.
The Center for Urban Enterprise campus will include an existing 11,000-square-foot building, a former tire storage warehouse. It is expected to be renovated to include a grandstand for small-scale lectures, office space and a multi-purpose theater for lecture series focusing on culture and film. The lower floor of the building will be anchored by five commercial kitchens — one of them Kosher at the request of members of the Jewish community — to provide pay-by-the hour, health department-approved commissary space for such businesses as food trucks and caterers.
In addition, a new 7,000-square-foot building is set to be constructed in a lot directly to the west, offering coworking space and a new home for the HEDC’s administration. There, entrepreneurs will be able to work face-to-face with staff to learn the tools they need for a sustainable business, Carmona said.
“The model is not only focused on entrepreneurship, but we also provide computer literacy training and financial education, so it’s bringing a holistic approach to our entrepreneurs,” he said. “Because we know that you can’t just be focused on a successful business without understanding new technologies and financial practices.”
Check out renderings of the new Center for Urban Enterprise below.
The HEDC has served more than 3,300 people and helped start and sustain more than 500 businesses since the organization started tracking its data and activity in 2006, Carmona said.
“A lot of the emphasis on making Kansas City an entrepreneurial city has been focused on the tech businesses because we know that they’re high growth, but also high risk,” he said. “We’ve argued that we’ve got a lot of the clients who we serve that might do mainstream, service businesses — they might not be the highest growth, but with the lower risk, they’re some of the more sustainable businesses here. One, two, five jobs here and there keeps the economy sustainable, especially when you multiply that by 500 businesses.”
The new Center for Urban Enterprise is expected to serve entrepreneurs from the Westside neighborhood to the downtown area. Another HEDC center at 3241 Independence Ave. houses its lending program, digital literacy and financial education classes, and plays host to a number of small business workshops, Carmona said.
“It’s a model that we’ve talked about where we’re investing into different pockets of Kansas City,” he said. “We’re providing that entrepreneurial space for those in our underserved communities.”