West-central city under study for HUD program
By Tom Harlan
A Miami communications agency is studying Sweetwater as a possible site for a US Department of Housing and Urban Development program that aims to boost business activity in predominantly Hispanic communities.
NatCom Marketing, which specializes in US Hispanic and Latin American marketing, is studying minority business and labor recruitment in the city in west-central Miami-Dade County. More than 13,000 of Sweetwater's 14,226 residents are Hispanic, according to the 2000 Census.
The company will use findings in studies of Sweetwater and Dona Ana County, NM, for a HUD blueprint on how the areas could achieve economic growth and business expansion.
Sweetwater Mayor Manuel L. Marono said city officials are grateful for the effort to help his city prosper. "This is one of those initiatives that will help us do that without increasing taxes," he said.
HUD officials asked NatCom to report on areas in the Southeast and Southwest that have large Hispanic populations.
NatCom President Robert J. Rodriguez said officials in the two communities will be encouraged to approach administration from a business perspective and decide what companies they want to target and how they will compete and create a communications plan to recruit companies.
"It's never been done in an organized fashion with Hispanic communities," he said.
NatCom has conducted focus groups and surveys with politicians, educators and hundreds of Hispanic business owners from other communities, Mr. Rodriguez said.
Mr. Rodriguez said Sweetwater officials could work with nearby Florida International University.
NatCom will present initial recommendations to officials in the communities early next month and a second round in June before providing technical assistance in September.
"What we are really excited about is empowering these Hispanic communities by providing them skill sets and tools to attract business and industry to their respective areas," Mr. Rodriguez said.
NatCom has been a HUD consultant since 2001, he said, and has been a HUD liaison with small-business owners.
US Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, whose district includes Sweetwater, said last week that HUD's plan is an important step in assisting emerging Latino neighborhoods throughout the US.
"The establishment of this program," he said in a statement, "clearly illustrates the dedication this administration has to reach out to the Hispanic community and to identify ways in which neighborhoods can be improved by expanding their economic and social potential."