By Robert Cyr
Twenty-six years ago, Elby Pagano saw a need for court interpreters in many languages but no business to fill it. Quitting her job as a court interpreter, she opened Manchester-based Interpreters and Translators Inc.
Her business grew over the years, but since registering her business with the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council (GNEMSDC), she has seen her business flourish at a faster pace. Now the company employs 15 people, thousands of subcontracted linguists and has state contracts and deals with non-profit businesses and courts in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Her son Francesco Pagano now manages the business. Membership in GNEMSDC and certification through the group as a women and minority-owned business directly resulted in strong federal contracts with the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Control, Pagano said.
“Things would be far more difficult without the membership,” he said. “They really helped us get our foot in the door.”
GNEMSDC, a growing group that links a vast network of corporations with small, minority-owned businesses, is helping Latinos and other minorities crack the lucrative government and commercial markets.
The GNEMSDC is a 35-year-old, not-for-profit organization based in Hamden. Its mission is to increase opportunities for certified minority businesses. It is an affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council. The group is funded by membership dues and sponsors in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The GNEMSDC will hold an expo Sept. 12-14 at Foxwoods Casino with more than 700 small businessmen and women expected to attend.
A sharp decline in the economy about three years ago in conjunction with a steadily increasing Latino community resulted in a rapid increase in GNEMSDC’s membership, said Regional Manager Tatiana Paredes. Small-business membership went up 30 percent in the last three years, including six so far this year and eight new businesses last year, she said. GNEMSDC links up corporations with a database of small businesses, sorted by location, service and product.
Throughout New England there are 220 corporate members and 400 small businesses. A third of corporate members, or 75, are based in Connecticut, with the same percentage of small business members, 137, Connecticut based, Paredes said.
Membership costs corporations between $1,500 and $3,000 a year based on the company’s size, and small minority-owned businesses pay $300 the first year and $150 a year after that. “Minority businesses are stepping up and proving they can provide these services if given the chance,” said Parades.
The group is controlled by a 33-member board of directors including representatives from companies including AT&T, United Technologies Corp., Raytheon, Pepsico, Inc., Pfizer, Inc. and Pratt & Whitney. Its president is Fred McKinney, who was not available for comment.
Werner Oyanadel, director of the Connecticut Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, said GNEMSDC’s annual Business Opportunity Expo is energizing for the Latino business community. While GNEMSDC can link businesses to lucrative state contracts, Oyanadel’s group is eagerly awaiting the results of a $500,000 study that will hopefully update the percentage of state contracts Latinos will be able to get by law.
A big problem is that Latinos business owners do not have their own designation and join small businesses owned by women and African Americans in a formula to get a mandated 25 percent of annual state contracts, he said. The upcoming results of the study, expected to be finished next year, will show that the Latino business community has grown substantially and should be updated from state figures last recorded more than a decade ago, he said.
“It’s not a battle between who is getting what,” he said. “We feel that for the proportion of businesses that are Latino that are already struggling to stay afloat, there will be a need for a stronger percentage equation. Because of the population shift, it’s important to talk about that again.”
GNEMSDC’s Business Opportunity Expo will be held Sept. 12-14 at MGM Grand at Foxwoods Casino. More affiliation is available on its website.