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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Main Street leader seeks Hispanic input

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Norma Ramirez de Miess, a coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Main Street Center in Washington, D.C., met with local Hispanic business leaders during a visit to Monett on Thursday. Shown from left are: Ramirez de Miess; Maria Guadalupe Beltran, store manager at Plaza Mexico; and Adriana Salas, Monett Chamber of Commerce administrative assistant. Salas said Ramirez de Miess spent three hours walking Broadway and visiting with business owners. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff] [Order this photo]
Norma Ramirez de Miess has traveled the nation as a coordinator for the National Main Street program. She volunteered to come to Monett last week to help the local Main Street program reach out to Hispanics to participate in the downtown revitalization effort.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to get to know the perspectives of the local Hispanic leaders," said Ramirez de Miess. "Hispanics come from all backgrounds, from faith-based to new business owners. They are genuinely interested in improving perceptions and working together."

Ramirez de Miess met with leaders from Asociaci--n Latina "Imagen" on Thursday morning then visited both Hispanic and non-Hispanic businesses in the afternoon to hear points of view first hand. She led a meeting on the Main Street program Thursday evening.

Leaders in Monett's Asociaci--n Latina "Imagen" met with representatives of the national and state Main Street programs last week. Pictured in the front row, from left, are: Sister M. Teresa Cruz, association president Adelaida Garcia-Ruiz, Rev. Fermin Sanchez and Dahlia Bradley. Back row: Valentin Vizcaino, Jeanine Rann, Missouri Main Street community development coordinator; Norma Ramirez de Miess, senior program officer for the national Main Street Center; Adriana Salas, Monett Chamber of Commerce administrative assistant; Dennis Pyle, city administrator; Luis Ceneņas, Drury University; and Suzy McElmurry, chamber executive director. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff] [Order this photo]
"This is great timing for Monett, to look at positive factors uniting people then creating a stronger sense of pride in Monett," said Ramirez de Miess. "I see the leaders are trying to make revitalization very inclusive. I believe downtowns are the catalyst for keeping communities alive, where mom-and-pop business owners continue that sense of place at the center of the community."

Greater involvement by Hispanics becomes a natural step where the immigrants have been part of the local population for two decades. Ramirez de Miess said Hispanics are also thinking about their future in Monett. "They want to convey that Hispanics are a positive part of the community," Ramirez de Miess said. "They make a contribution by providing a very strong workforce and shared family values. They are interested in strong neighborhoods and schools. They're saying that in building a positive image for Hispanics, it conveys the picture of a unified community."

With both Drury University and Crowder College making outreach efforts toward Hispanics, Ramirez de Miess sees a very positive climate in Monett for the joint outreach. Drury's upcoming course on entrepreneurship will further foster the value of having one's own business.

"You need that for downtowns to be successful," Ramirez de Miess said. "Small businesses don't have promotions for each department, like bigger stores. When Main Street works with cities, business owners can reach out and be more successful. It leads to a stronger community."

Ramirez de Miess said she was particularly interested in learning from the Hispanic business owners about their customer base. She hoped to confirm that customers from outside Monett were coming to patronize these businesses.

"We want to see business in Monett," said Ramirez de Miess. "Main Street will be a support system that will build tools to strengthen each base. We can recommend the next steps to building inclusion."

In her discussions with Hispanics, Ramirez de Miess stressed major focuses of the Main Street approach.

Economic restructuring emphasizes ways to assist existing businesses to be successful. Design focuses on how to rework existing properties to keep their historic values and maintain a sense of place. Promotion enhances business by increasing foot traffic.

"I don't think business owners are shy," Ramirez de Miess said. "They'll tell us what their needs are. Then we can find ways to be supportive."

Learning about potential markets is "a two-way street," Ramirez de Miess said. Hispanic businesses may have focused solely on Hispanic customers based on conditions, such as a lack of skill in English. Plus Hispanic customers are very loyal. Showing how business can grow by reaching out to a broader market will naturally break down barriers.

"I assure you, they see the value of the dollar," said Ramirez de Miess. "We want to help they understand the potential of the market.

"Anglo businesses too must understand they might have a market in the Hispanic community," Ramirez de Miess said. "They need to reach out for the tools that might bring that market to their doors."

Cultural differences have presented challenges to understanding and cooperation.

"In general, regular American culture looks at space, like a storefront, and makes in open and empty to be comfortable," said Ramirez de Miess.

"In the Hispanic culture, they see space as an opportunity to use it. Color says, 'I'm alive.' The brighter, the better. Space is to use for expression," continued Ramirez de Miess. "That's why you'll find Hispanic businesses often cover their windows with posters. That says, 'Look at what I have. I have what you need.'

"It's a different marketing approach that relates to culture," Ramirez de Miess added. "We can learn from each other. We can learn to compromise and value each other's perspective. Rather than regulate and eliminate, we can come together."

Ramirez de Miess found the invitation to come to Monett exciting.

"We're finding answers; we're providing tools," she said. "We want both Hispanics and non-Hispanics to be supportive of cultural values and for the existing community to see common ground.

"Promotion brings people to the downtown," said Ramirez de Miess. "I hope Main Street builds on this and can work with Monett Main Street to develop an organizational structure plus work with DREAM (the Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri Initiative) to tap state resources."

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