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ISU specialist sees optimism among Latino businesses

Himar Hernandez (ISU photo)

AMES — Even though the pandemic hit them disproportionately harder than others, many Latino business owners in Iowa are optimistic as the pandemic subsides.

Himar Hernandez is a community development specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. He works with many Latino-owned businesses and says in a short time, multiple new businesses have opened.

“I would say in terms of last year, it’s a nice growth,” Hernandez says. “In terms of pre-pandemic, we’re not there yet to the levels we were operating before.” In the midst of the pandemic, Hernandez says many Latino-owned businesses struggled to keep their doors open, especially if they were left out of the Paycheck Protection Program. But now, they’re starting to get their hopes up as COVID cases — and restrictions — drop.

“They’re just excited, they see opportunity,” he says. “They see their space to grow. It’s like no pandemic happened. I mean, they’re just remodeling buildings and they’re just all over and I think it has to maybe go with the theme that we all just ready to get out.”

When compared to the 2008 recession, Hernandez says it looks like the businesses he works with are headed toward a speedier recovery than 13 years ago. One problem they still face, he says, is a labor shortage.

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