MERIDEN — Hugo Aceves has been working with concrete for over 30 years.
He left his family farm in San Juannito Escobedo, Mexico and moved to Wallingford in 1992, eventually starting his own business at 210 Elm St. in 2011 – Solo Concrete LLC . in Meriden.
Working with concrete is tough work, but well paid, Aceves said. Concrete floors dry in two hours in 90-degree heat, which means limited and stressful work hours, especially on hot days.
“If I make a mistake or something goes wrong, like height, size or whatever, I lose a lot of money because once the cement hardens, you can’t do anything,” he said in Spanish, his native language. .
Aceves came to the United States at the age of 16. After dropping out of high school, he started an apprenticeship with a concrete company. He said he eventually became a laborer, team leader and foreman.
While trying to grow the business, Aceves was denied a loan to secure a position. However, an acquaintance introduced him to the Community Economic Development Fund, a community development financial institution in Meriden, that helped him secure a commercial owner-occupied mortgage in early 2020.
Like Aceves, many small business owners in low-income areas have had difficulty obtaining loans from traditional financial institutions and often turn to institutions such as the CEDF for help and support.
CEDF President and CEO Jim Bzdyra explained, “I think most banks really want to help a lot of businesses, especially Latino, Latino and Hispanic businesses, but their hands are a little bit off in terms of getting compliance or regulation. constrained to a certain extent.”
Nationwide, there are more than 1,000 certified CDFIs. Like banks, CDFIs are private sector financial service providers. Unlike banks, however, whose primary mission is community development, these agencies can apply for limited federal funding allocated through a competitive process.
In 2021, a federal fund provided CEDF with more than $1 million in funding, primarily for rapid response programs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Headquartered in Meriden, the agency works with Meriden business owners to invest in businesses in more than 53 Targeted Investment Communities across the state.
Although race is not one aspect of determining whether a neighborhood is economically disadvantaged, Bzydra explained that many of his Latino clients live in those neighborhoods.
For those who don’t live in those communities, the fund helps borrowers whose household income is capped at $112,000 or less, Bzydra said.
Based on income alone, most Hispanics in the state would qualify if they tended to earn less than the income threshold. According to estimates by Data USA — an online tool created by MIT and Deloitte to make public data more accessible — the average household income in Connecticut since 2013 is $63,000. Annually, Hispanic households earn about $48,000, compared with about $79,000 for white Connecticut households.
Small businesses stabilize and strengthen local communities and are more likely to employ local residents and stay in Connecticut, said CEDF Lending Director Richard Vidal.
Vidal is bilingual and has Peruvian ancestry. He explained that many Hispanics are comfortable speaking English, but tricky legal and financial language can be a barrier for small business owners. As a result, he said the fund offers bilingual support services to Spanish-speaking clients and can also provide counseling and education to their clients even if they don’t get loans.
“My experience working with the Latino community here, [is] It’s just for them to understand that whether we provide a loan or not, our purpose is to get you to a better place,” Vidal said.
The son of a Latino business owner, Vidal explained that many Latinos don’t want to take on debt. However, he explained that some debt is strategic and can help the business grow.
“Educating the Hispanic community on how to borrow properly, how to manage their finances is time-consuming, and there is a level of communication that has to be established from the start,” he said.
Bzydra added that the company connects borrowers with an advisor who follows the owner throughout the life 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, attorneys, payroll companies and insurance brokers.
“In a lot of cases, we’ll spend three, six, nine months, bringing loan applicants to us for the first time, working with them, mentoring them, mentoring them,” he said
Joseph F. Feest, director of economic development at Meriden, called the fund “remarkable.”
“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 the company, Aceves remembers struggling with late payments from clients and not knowing how he was going to pay his wages. Despite the challenges, he still enjoys working with concrete.
“I never stop learning, and I love seeing what concrete is made of. If it weren’t for concrete, we wouldn’t have the comfort we have today in global infrastructure,” he said.
Aceves was associated with the fund in 2019 and received approval in early 2020. CEDF helped him secure an owner-occupied commercial mortgage to store machinery for his concrete business, he said.
“They helped me a lot to get the honor and be successful,” he said. “For legal matters, there is nothing better than having things explained to you in Spanish.”
Aceves said he was able to pay $60,000 to get a $232,000 loan with an interest rate of about 8.2 percent and monthly payments of $2,032. Despite concerns about Meriden’s recent property tax hike from $6,000 to $19,000, Aceves said getting a mortgage is good for his business.
“I have plenty of room to spend less,” he said. “What I pay is for me; I’m not giving up my rent.”
CEDF is located at 965 E Main St, Meriden. For more information, visit https://www.cedf.com/ or call (203) 235-2333.
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Latino community reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member of Report for America, a national service project that places reporters in local newsrooms. Support Record-Journal’s RFA reporters with a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re, and to learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.