Meriden-Based Financial Institution Supports Latino-Owned Businesses

MERIDEN — Hugo Aceves has been working with concrete for more than 30 years.

He left his family farm in San Juanito Escobedo, Mexico and moved to Wallingford in 1992, eventually starting his own business – Solo Concrete LLC – in 2011, located at 210 Elm St. in Meriden.

Working with concrete is hard work, Aceves said, but well paid. A cement floor dries in two hours at 90 degree heat, which means limited and stressful working time, especially in hot weather.

“If I make a mistake or something is wrong, a height or a measurement or something, it costs me a lot of money because you can’t do anything after the cement has set,” he said. he declared in his native Spanish.

Aceves came to the United States when he was 16 years old. After dropping out of high school, he started working as an apprentice in a concrete company. He eventually became a laborer, team leader and foreman, he said.

While trying to expand his business, Aceves was denied a loan to secure a location. However, an acquaintance put him in touch with the Community Economic Development Fund, which is a Meriden-based community development financial institution, which helped him secure an owner-occupied commercial mortgage in early 2020.

Like Aceves, many small business owners in low-income areas struggle to get loans from traditional financial institutions, often turning to institutions like CEDF for help and support.

“I think most banks would really like to help a lot of businesses, especially Latino, Latino, and Hispanic businesses, but their hands are tied to some degree in getting compliance or regulation,” the chairman explained. and CEO of CEDF, Jim Bzdyra.

Nationwide, there are more than 1,000 certified CDFIs. Like banks, CDFIs are private sector financial service providers. However, unlike banks, their primary mission is community development, and these institutions can apply for limited federal funds allocated through a competitive process.

Latinos and CEDFs

In 2021, a federal fund granted CEDF over $1 million, primarily for a rapid response program following the COVID-19 pandemic. The Meriden-based institution works with Meriden business owners and invests in businesses statewide in more than 53 targeted investment communities.

Although ethnicity is not an aspect in determining whether a community is economically disadvantaged, Bzydra explained that many of her Latino clients live in these communities.

For people who don’t live in those communities, Bzydra said the fund helps borrowers who meet an annual household income ceiling of $112,000 or less.

Based on income alone, most Latinos in the state would qualify because they tend to earn below the income threshold. According to estimates from Data USA — which is an online tool created by MIT and Deloitte to make public data more accessible — as of 2013, the average household income in Connecticut is $63,000. Each year, Hispanic families earned about $48,000, while white families earned about $79,000 in Connecticut.

Loan and education services

Richard Vidal, director of loans at CEDF, said small businesses stabilize and strengthen their local neighborhoods and are more likely to hire local residents and stay in Connecticut.

Vidal is bilingual and has Peruvian heritage. He explained that many Latinos are comfortable speaking English, but tricky legal and financial language could be a barrier for small business owners. As a result, he said, the fund provides bilingual support services to Spanish-speaking clients and can also connect their clients with counseling and education services, even if they don’t get a loan.

“My experience here working with the Latino community, [is] just make them understand that whether we give a loan or not, our goal is to get you to a better place,” Vidal said.

As the son of a Latino business owner, Vidal explained that many Latinos don’t want to go into debt. However, he explained that some debts are strategic to help the company grow.

“Educating the Hispanic community on how to borrow properly, how to manage finances, is time-consuming and requires a level of communication that you need to establish early on,” he said.

Mentoring companies

Bzydra added that the company connects borrowers with an advisor who follows the homeowner throughout the term of the loan and in some cases even after the loan is paid off. CEDF can connect business owners with other professionals such as accountants, lawyers, payroll companies and insurance brokers.

“In many cases, we will spend three, six, nine months the first time a loan applicant approaches us, working with them, mentoring them, mentoring them,” he said.

Meriden’s Director of Economic Development, Joseph F. Feest, called the fund “outstanding.”

“They help people,” he said. “It’s good that we have them because they’re in town and people can go there in person and see what they’re signing.”

After starting his business, Aceves recalls struggling with late customer payments and not knowing how he was going to make payroll. Despite the challenges, he still enjoys working with concrete.

“I never stop learning and I love looking at concrete things. Without concrete, we wouldn’t have the comfort we have today in global infrastructure,” he said.

Aceves signed on to the fund in 2019 and was approved in early 2020. He said CEDF helped him secure an owner-occupied commercial mortgage to store the concrete company’s machinery.

“They helped me a lot to get the credit and move forward,” he said. “For legal matters, there’s nothing like having things explained in Spanish.”

Aceves said he was able to deposit $60,000 to secure a loan of $232,000 with an interest rate of around 8.2%, which translates to a monthly payment of $2,032. Despite concerns over a recent hike in Meriden’s property taxes to $19,000 from $6,000, Aceves said getting the mortgage was good for his business.

“I have enough space for less money,” he said. “The payments I make are for me; I don’t give my rent.

CEDF is located at 965 E Main St, Meriden. For more information, visit https://www.cedf.com/ or call (203) 235-2333.

[email protected], Twitter: @lguzm_n

Latino communities reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. Support RFA journalists at Record-Journal by donating to https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re. To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.