With Hispanic Heritage Month occurring until Oct. 15, this felt like a good time to glance at the state of Hispanic businesses in the Wenatchee Valley.
Speaking to members of our business community, both white and Hispanic one comes away with reasons for optimism, but also reasons for concern.
Jessi Mendoza, business banking relationship officer at Numerica Credit Union said Hispanic businesses in the Valley have some challenges, but overall, they are growing strong.
Challenges go from finding and retaining skilled employees to dealing with what has come to be known as “Latino Time.”
“It’s a reality but only to a certain extent,” Mendoza said of the perceived disregard for punctuality among Latino employees. A bigger problem is finding dependable employees who show up day in and day out. Sometimes other things take precedence and that affects their reputation in the eyes of employers, Mendoza said.
Asked how to solve that challenge, Mendoza said it was a tough problem without a one-size-fits-all solution.
Hispanic business owners also have their own challenges, particularly at the start. Stacy Luckensmeyer, business and industry liaison for Wenatchee Valley College, said one of the biggest hurdles nowadays to start a business for Hispanic entrepreneurs is that a lot of the required paperwork, license applications, and documents at banks and government agencies is available only in English.
Mendoza agreed, saying, “When they don’t understand the clauses and ramifications of their options on what they can or cannot do, the language barrier plays a huge role,” he said.
At the same time, reasons to be optimistic exist, as well. Luckensmeyer, who oversees the center for entrepreneurship at WVC, said that the language barrier will grow smaller as more second- and third- generation Hispanic entrepreneurs, who are English-literate enter the workforce.
“In general, our Hispanic community is extremely entrepreneurial,” Luckensmeyer said. “There’s a lot of see-a-need-fill-a-need.”
Mendoza also predicted a stronger foothold for Hispanics in the business world in the Valley, moving beyond the food-services industry and into areas like construction, which then might lead to a trickle-down effect for entrepreneurs to break into other areas.
“I’m very optimistic that we will have a thriving business community in the next three to five years,” Mendoza said. “I am very excited to see what it looks like.”
Luckensmeyer agreed. “I’m thoroughly impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit in our Hispanic community. It’s inspiring.”