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Latino business group works toward establishment

WORTHINGTON -- Currently, there are 21 Hispanic-owned businesses in Worthington. A new group is forming to help these business owners better connect with the greater Worthington community. Adolfo Avila Jr., a Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF...

WORTHINGTON -- Currently, there are 21 Hispanic-owned businesses in Worthington.

A new group is forming to help these business owners better connect with the greater Worthington community.

Adolfo Avila Jr., a Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) business consultant, has been working with Hispanic business owners in the community for nearly three years. In that time, he has helped businesses create business plans, get proper permits and meet the requirements to open a business. He has also offered classes for small business owners on Quickbooks and other topics of interest.

Now, a new Latino business group is in the works. This group will be involved with the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce. A kickoff meeting took place Feb. 2, chaired by Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake. Chamber representatives and other local leaders were in attendance, along with a majority of the Hispanic business owners.

"That was a perfect example that the community of Worthington does want to work together," Avila said. "By working together, they're going to build a stronger community. I'm excited to be a part of that."

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In the past, Avila cites communication as one of the key reasons Hispanic business owners are not more involved in community events.

"We want to come together between two cultures," said Lizbeth Campillo, owner of El Estilo Vaquero (The Cowboy Style). "We want for people to come to our store and get to know what we sell."

Campillo is the local spokesperson for the Latino business group, which will meet again at 5 p.m. tonight at the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce. Campillo has owned the western wear store along Oxford Street in Worthington for 12 years. Her business specializes in selling men's western wear, everything from leather boots to cowboy hats.

"There are a lot of things to do as a committee," Campillo said. "We want to get more involved in the community."

The new group plans to finalize the group name and elect officers soon. According to Avila, a possible name for the group is Latino Business Association of Worthington. At tonight's meeting, the group will learn about the local Chamber of Commerce, how it works and how members can become more involved.

"We want to welcome anyone who wants to be a part of the group," Avila said. "The meetings will be in Spanish."

A three-way partnership with SWIF in Hutchinson, the Small Business Development Center in Marshall and the Latino Economic Development Center of Minneapolis has allowed Avila to work in the Worthington area.

Avila, who lives on a farm near Tracy, travels to Worthington for meetings and to work with local businesses.

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"He advises us," Campillo said of Avila. "He knows a lot, and he's who we're learning from."

Another goal of the new organization is to strengthen communication between Hispanic-owned businesses. Avila said many businesses had a 40 percent drop or more in sales following the immigration sweep at Swift & Co. on Dec. 12, 2006. Although sales are slowly picking up again, Avila said many stores' sales are still below normal.

"We want to be better prepared for emergencies and things that may happen in the community," Avila said. "Out of something bad, something good is coming out of it."

For more information about the Latino business group, contact Avila at (888) 882-6010.

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