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ST. GEORGE — The Latino business community in southern Utah is getting a new item for its tool belt: advising specialized for diverse businesses.
The Salt Lake City-based Suazo Business Center, which offers resources for Latino and other diverse entrepreneurs, recently expanded to southern Utah. The center partnered with Utah Tech University to open a new office at the university’s Atwood Innovation Plaza in St. George.
As of 2020 census data, city’s population was 13% Hispanic. Since then, the diversity in the area has only grown, says Suazo Center President and CEO Silvia Castro.
“We are thrilled to expand to southern Utah and the Washington County area. With the region’s growth and population changes, there is an ever-increasing need for our services,” Castro said. “Utah Tech University has been a great partner, working together to better serve our historically-underrepresented community, where they live and work.”
Wyatt Anderson, the rural outreach manager at Atwood Innovation Plaza, said a partnership between the two organizations was a “natural fit.”
“In line with Utah Tech University’s mission to serve Utah as an open, inclusive, comprehensive, polytechnic university, we are thrilled to partner with Suazo Business Center and offer Hispanic/Latino and other underserved communities the specialized support, knowledge and resources vital to contribute to the success of entrepreneurs and to help further economic development efforts in Southern Utah,” he said over email. “We look forward to helping more businesses flourish and enrich our community, state and beyond.”
The Suazo Business Center has helped a number of St. George business clients that would drive to Salt Lake City for assistance. Although virtual services during the pandemic created some options, many of the clients prefer to meet in person or lack resources like broadband internet to facilitate virtual meetings, said Edward Bennett, director of business development for Suazo Center.
“Having a physical location and a physical presence became imperative,” he said. “People are super excited.”
The St. George office is currently limited to one employee and advising services, but the center aims to eventually offer classes, additional staff, access to capital and more community outreach. That’s all in due time, however, said Bennett. He added that the center plans on staying in St. George for the long run and is working on expanding resources through community partnerships in the meantime.
“We need to make sure that if we’re going to stay down there and we’re doing this work down there, we’re not going to abandon the community,” he said. “That’s happened in the past with organizations that have come into spaces where they haven’t traditionally lived, they set up shop, they talk a big game and then something happens and they leave.”
Suazo already has offices in Salt Lake City and Ogden. Castro and Bennett said future locations could include Utah County, Tooele and Logan.
“We don’t do what we do just to grow and get bigger. That’s never the intention,” Bennett said. “We’re always in the back of our heads asking, ‘OK, what’s next? Where are we going? How are we doing it?'”