The Day – Business Fair Friday aims to bring Hispanic and Latino entrepreneurs together with services


Norwich – With a growing population of Hispanic students in Norwich schools, families in townhouses and businesses on city streets, a Danbury-based Latino advocacy group realized it was time to expand its reach into eastern Connecticut.

Latinos for Educational Advocacy and Diversity, known as LEAD, will be held at the Norwich Community Development Corp on Friday from 9am to 12pm. co-host a business fair Foundry 66 Facility at 66 Franklin Street. The event, which aims to raise awareness among minority-owned businesses of government resources and services offered by other businesses, is free and open to the public.

There will be around a dozen speakers and 50 to 60 tables for the agencies, organizations and companies that will be attending.

LEAD program manager Maria Matos said when the advocacy group cut the ribbon in Danbury last June, she invited State Senator Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, for her support for minority-owned businesses and employees. Osten told Matos she wishes LEAD had a program in her area.

“The number of Hispanic business owners in the Norwich area is growing,” Osten said Wednesday. “We’re working to give them the resources they need to get started.”

Osten said one of the area’s largest employers, Electric Boat, has expanded its reach and support for Hispanic workers as the shipyard continues an aggressive hiring campaign. EB has launched a Spanish Facebook page, a Hispanic shipbuilders’ association, held recruitment events and outreach, Osten said, citing the company’s October 2021 report to lawmakers.

LEAD organizers began meetings with Hispanic business leaders from the Norwich area in September, and Matos hopes to open a LEAD office in Norwich-New London soon.

“We go to the churches, we organize them, and then we’re out,” Matos said of LEAD’s new chapter planting process. “We’re there, we do the finance courses, the business courses, we make the connections and then we want them to grow.”

Matos was pleased with how quickly Friday’s business fair took place, with individuals and companies asking for tables. She emphasized that Friday’s fair is for everyone, not just Latino companies. She hopes that the many Haitian companies in the region will also get involved.

Government participants include the NCDC, its Foundry 66 Shared Workspace Facility and the Global City Norwich Minority Business Outreach Program, the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, the Federal Small Business Administration, the State Department of Economic and Community Development, and the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of commerce

Minority-owned businesses and business services, including insurance providers, will also participate.

Matos said Foundry 66 will provide tables for attendees, but they would need to bring their own equipment and staff. Event organizers are arranging the space at Foundry 66 to ensure the flow of traffic for attendees. She thanked Foundry 66 Community Manager Mary Riley for helping organize the event.

cosmopolitan city Norwich, part of NCDC, regularly conducts programs for startup companies and those interested in starting a business. The program aims to increase the number of minority owned businesses in central Norwich. Program officer Suki Lagrito welcomed LEAD’s efforts to bring Hispanic, Latino and other entrepreneurs together.

Lagrito spread the news of the business fair by texting and emailing her contacts, encouraging them to attend the event. “I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “There will be stations so a lot of people can come and network and gather information from all the different organizations that provide business resources.”

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