Latino Economic Development Center

Big room with people talking and working

Creating jobs and building community: East Side Enterprise Center

On the East Side of Saint Paul, a small building is causing very large ripples. The East Side Enterprise Center, a joint venture from the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) and Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, provides specialized services to nurture minority small business owners and entrepreneurs.

“There weren’t many nonprofits focused on job creation and growth on the East Side. You had a large disparity in the services available for racially diverse business owners, and this caused many small businesses to operate in ‘survival mode,’ never reaching their full potential.” said Deanna Abbot-Foster, Community Council CEO.

F. R. Bigelow Foundation saw an opportunity to invest in job creation and economic development for racially diverse business owners, providing financial support for the center since its creation in 2014.

Two woman talking


Today, the East Side Enterprise Center has helped the community move from surviving to thriving. In 2015, LEDC, through its services at the center, created 35 new jobs, surpassing its original goal of 15.

The center also infuses financial resources back into local businesses. “Last year, our goal was to help provide $200,000 in business loans to our clients. But thanks to funders and community supporters, we were able to make $800,000 in loans in 2015,” said Mario Hernandez, LEDC’s vice president and COO.

How did they find such stunning success?

“Our goals were aligned,” Hernandez said. “So we purchased a building and created the East Side Enterprise Center.”“This space was built on collaboration,” said Hernandez. LEDC was looking for a warehouse to use as a hub to help Latino farmers get their produce into local restaurants and grocery stores. Dayton’s Bluff Community Council members wanted to bring more attention to economic development and job creation for minorities and recent immigrants.

The center’s design is unique. Ten community partners from across the metro offer their specialized services onsite. Current and aspiring business owners learn from experts how to bid on contracts, manage their accounting process, find loan opportunities or use its warehouse space to store and sell produce to local eateries.

“In the past year, we’ve moved 250,000 pounds of produce through our warehouse. With the growing food scene on Payne Avenue, we’re positioned to connect local farmers with big opportunities,” said Hernandez.

But looking beyond the numbers, the East Side Enterprise Center is creating something bigger – space and accessibility for Minnesota’s wealth of diverse entrepreneurs to see their dreams come to life. When it comes to strengthening community, sometimes the humblest dreams leave the greatest marks.