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Main Spotlight: Para Nuestra Comunidad, For Our Community

October 4, 2022 | Main Spotlight: Para Nuestra Comunidad, For Our Community | By: Anette Landeros, President and CEO of Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce |
North Main Street in Fort Worth. Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

50 years ago, our Hispanic business community in Fort Worth, TX felt we needed an avenue to grow, connect and champion each other’s businesses. A small group of business owners founded our Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and since then we’ve been building a legacy of being a resource and advocate for our community.
For the last 20 years we’ve been located in Fort Worth’s Historic Northside, a neighborhood that is rich in Latino culture, flavor, and history. Our office sits on North Main Street just about a mile north of our beautiful downtown, yet we’ve dealt with years of less than beautiful circumstances that come with an area riddled with homelessness, littering, and a street that has several vacant and boarded up buildings. Still, our commitment to stay in Northside has not wavered. We’ve been involved as an advocate for businesses in the area but have always dreamed of being able to do more but recognized our limitations with a small staff already overextended with our business assistance programs.

Then, a few months ago an opportunity presented itself that is going to hopefully make that dream a reality. Our city announced they were partnering with Main Street America to help targeted revitalization areas and committed to providing funding to organization’s willing to lead the efforts. We decided to submit a proposal for the Historic Northside and competed against several other worthy corridors to be selected as one of two for the initial pilot program. This news has truly planted incredible seeds of opportunity and reenergized the business corridor to consider the possibilities of beautifying our commercial district to reflect the pride of our community.

As a brand-new partner in the Main Street America program, we recognize we will be on a learning journey that will allow us to leverage best practices and experiences from other communities throughout the country. We’re excited to put those resources to work but also are very proud to amplify the voice of the long-established community. As an invested neighbor, we are aware of some of the challenges that may be ahead.

Like many other economically disadvantaged communities, we hear and feel the fear of displacement. The neighborhood online discourse has highlighted that some feel that accepting unsafe living situations is the best way to protect their homes, often even discouraging efforts by those who want to report illegal activities to the city. Our hope is that by involving the community we can create a sense of place and a commercial corridor that adds to their quality of life. If business owners are relatable and invested in the community, they can also serve as a source of inspiration – a true testament to the American dream that many Hispanic families are still pursuing.
We also recognize that it will be important to ensure that assigned staff members who lead community outreach are able to connect with the community culturally. We envision hiring a new person to help lead this effort and are engaging community leaders in advance to discuss characteristics that would be important to them. Clearly this person will need to be bilingual but also culturally sensitive to the various types of business owners we serve: English and Spanish speakers, varying citizenship statuses, different levels of business education, and at times varying levels of trust for sharing personal information. Our hope is to involve the community in the staff selection process to help build trust and lay the foundation for a strong relationship with the selected candidate.

And last, we understand that we will need to be very intentional to preserve the strong Hispanic heritage that has played such an integral role in the history of the area. This is the portion of the work that we hope to lean on the Main Street America training and network to help us navigate. If we can successfully accomplish the preservation of culture, we believe other areas in our city will be less apprehensive to participating in these types of commercial redevelopment initiatives.

Our Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber is so energized and grateful for this opportunity and what it could mean for the Historic Northside. As trusted stewards of this initiative, we will do our best to make Main Street America and our city proud.