Erick Misiak carried many dreams and plans with him when he arrived in Rhode Island some 30 years ago after emigrating from Poland – but not much more than that.
“Maybe I had $100 in my pocket,” Misiak told a room full of area business owners and hopefuls promoting the launch of the Progreso Latino Small Business Initiative. He worked in construction for years before launching his own business, Misiak Masonry & Construction in Cranston.
“America creates this buzz, where people have the opportunity to create something that may not have been possible in their own countries,” he said.
Progreso Latino is hoping buzz around stories like Misiak’s will bring others to its doors to take advantage of the new program, which is funded in large part by the U.S. Small Business Administration and touted by the state as a means to Rhode Island’s economic revitalization, by focusing on small-business development and urban planning.
With a $120,000 SBA grant – plus in-kind donations – the program, Progreso Latino Director Mario Bueno said, hopes to help some 200 small-business owners, including roughly 30 to 40 new ventures and those hoping to open.
Approximately 10 budding business owners already have started working with Progreso Latino.
Though Progreso Latino will market the program to bilingual entrepreneurs, it is open to any small-business owner in the state.
“[Investing] in urban areas will have a direct effect on economic recovery,” Keith W. Stokes, executive director of the R.I. Economic Development Corporation, said at a March 27 press conference announcing the program.
The EDC has a vested interest in seeing such programs come to fruition, as it has devoted several initiatives to the same goal.
Its Enterprise Zone Program offers tax incentives to businesses that expand their workforce, including in Central Falls, where Progreso Latino is located and where many small-business owners who plan to be involved with the program are based, and neighboring Pawtucket.
Central Falls also is one of the urban communities EDC hopes will benefit from its targeted urban-renewal focus on markets that have been “traditionally underserved” and have had limited access to much of the resources Progreso Latino also hopes to provide.
Targeting ways to help small businesses grow is the centerpiece of the EDC’s Every Company Count’s program, which aims to spur job creation by working to provide, among other things, education and consulting on all stages of business growth.
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