Centro CHA Plans Business Incubator
By Dianne Anderson
Everything – including the kitchen sink – is in store for the new Inclusive Business and Workforce Center to help get the community back on its feet in what is sure to be a long term post pandemic recovery.
The loss of businesses and loss of jobs may be felt for years to come.
Jessica Quintana said that the facility is a work in progress.
Over the next year, they will be building a bigger, better space to converge where the community can engage in culturally appropriate workshops and access small business incubators to grow their business.
“We’ll have a wonderful high-tech computer lab for folks to participate in business development, and connect with workshops, either through the city of Long Beach business development. We’ll provide workshops on starting your small business, how to develop a business plan, financial literacy, marketing,” said Quintana, Executive Director of Centro CHA.
For those that want to pursue culinary goals, they are also planning a top-of-the-line kitchen.
Currently, the facility is 4,800 square foot shell, but it is projected to reach 7-8,000 square feet under recent $5 million state funding. It will be located in the Central Area off Pacific Coast Highway for easy access.
As plans for the building come together for construction, she said they will open up the procurement process. Right now, the priority is working on the permits and entitlement before groundbreaking in the next year. After construction starts, she anticipates the building will be ready in about two years.
In the meantime, they will continue to provide important services.
“We never shut our doors during the pandemic, we continued to help people during the crisis,” she said, adding they offered rapid response services, helped the community apply for unemployment and emergency rentals, food assistance, access to PPE, and getting them to testing sites.
Now, they are holding vaccination clinics, education and community resources.
She said the community is facing deep challenges. Some youth are struggling to get beyond their time in the justice system. Others don’t have a place to go to learn to navigate resources, and there are still equity barriers with access to technology.
Through COVID, the need has soared in so many areas. She said a lot of the population has been left out of plans for economic recovery.
“And will be further left out if they don’t have a space t place to go to get their skills to have a better career and sustain themselves with their families and households, able to pay rent or a homeowner, or just be above the poverty line,” she said. “No one can live like that anymore, it’s really hard.”
Currently, she said they have a robust program with 6,000 square feet of training space, two large classrooms, located at 1633 Long Beach Blvd.
But through the years, their big challenge has always been paying the rent. Some of that stress will be eliminated with the new facility.
“We’ve always had to move because people wanted their property back to either develop or sell,” she said. “We will be purchasing the space, and become the owners of that space.”
Since their nonprofit started, their focus has been on the job training, workforce development and higher education. She said they have handled the city’s workforce development contract for over 20 years.
Their workforce training has also been successful in outreach and inclusion. To her knowledge, she isn’t aware of another community-based organization serving the high demographic of the Black community within her service delivery area, representing 28% in their workforce programs.
The nonprofit also works with a lot of employers in the trades and unions. Many participants in workforce training have been hired.
She believes the secret to their success is that they have compassionate employment case management who understand the challenges of men and women of color, whether that’s Latino or African American, and achieving their goals.
“The goal is to get people hired, for people to start their own businesses, have their families stabilized. for people to have that economic upward mobility,” she said. “This economy has been way too hard on our communities of color.”
She envisions a place where the community can walk in the old-fashioned way, and receive quick services in ways they can understand.
“The stress is so hard on these communities. They work 14-hour a day jobs and can’t afford to get healthcare. [In] helping them with a business license, a micro-grant, now a mom and pop business can grow from that and they can be competitive in their business,” she said.
For more information on programs and services, see https://centrocha.org