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Economic Development News Sussex County

¡DALE! unites Delaware Latino business community

Katie Tabeling
La Plaza launched business classes last year, and half the students were running their own business at the time. More have since started their own business. (2022|) PHOTO COURTESY OF LA PLAZA

IN 2022, La Plaza launched business classes last year, and half the students were running their own business at the time. Those classes also formed the genesis of ¡DALE!. | PHOTO COURTESY OF LA PLAZA

GEORGETOWN — To continue the momentum of organizing the state’s Latino community, La Plaza Delaware and other business leaders have launched an association to unite and support the Latino business community.

¡DALE!, or the Delaware Alliance of Latino Entrepreneurs, will have its first community event on Feb. 25. The Latino Business and Community Expo is set to have at least 100 businesses to network and advertise services. It’s only the beginning, according to Sergio Morales.

“The idea is to support everyone in one organization,” said Morales, the president of DALE and owner of contracting company E&S Morales Brothers in Long Neck. “We have been here for years, and it feels sometimes that we’ve gone unnoticed. The big companies out there are known, but there’s people behind the scenes and the small businesses. It’s time to show people what we can do and the quality of work we can bring to Sussex County.”

¡DALE! is a direct spin-off from La Plaza Delaware, a nonprofit that offers comprehensive business plan training, consultation services and access to credit. For now, La Plaza is supporting ¡DALE!, but in the long-term the idea is for the association to be independent.

The roots of ¡DALE! can be traced to business plan training programs that La Plaza hosted, and La Plaza Executive Director Mary Dupont noticed the energy from business owners as they talked about their goals and dreams. 

“Conversations started about how American businesses, particularly builders and contractors, have become role models for the Latino businesses, as many of them are contractors,” Dupont said. “The question was how they did it. These businesses didn’t do it alone, they helped each other out.”

In 2020, the Latino community contributed $2.8 trillion to the U.S. economy, up from $2.1 trillion in 2015 and $1.7 trillion in 2010, according to a report by the Latino Donor Collaborative in partnership with Wells Fargo. But the Hispanic community nationwide also faces unique challenges, like different cultural norms and a language barrier, which might keep some of these business owners out of local chambers of commerce.

“By coming together, we knew they would be more empowered and feel comfortable interacting as a group with a larger business community rather than one of many,” Dupont added. “It offers support as well as giving them an identity.”

The first official meeting that sparked ¡DALE! was Congreso, a business summit in June 2022, where 200 businesses participated. Since then, organizations like the Association of Builders and Contractors Delaware and Builders and Remodelers Association of Delaware have started to form partnerships with the community and ¡DALE!

Morales believes there is more strength in numbers. When he first started working in construction in 2000, he learned everything he could from his boss at the time. But when the business started to go south and thousands in wages went unpaid, he didn’t speak enough English to find recourse.

In 2007, Morales and his brother went into business together and in 2018, Morales started his own firm.

“We have been here for years, and we need to come together to not only make a list of our businesses, but to make a difference for our community. We’re not here to make trouble, we want to build our communities better,” he said. “We want to educate our community, and work to continue to make it grow every day.”

The Latino community has already become more visible this year, with at least 50 business leaders appearing at Legislative Hall to testify against the Contract Workforce Agreement pilot included in the mini-bond bill earlier this legislative session.

“That didn’t take a lot of pushing for them to come out. It started with a text message that was sent out, and they really turned out. And I really think that ¡DALE! will continue to give people that sense of identity and confidence moving forward,” Dupont said.

While many chambers in Delaware hire lobbyists to make their case on bills and the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce has a dedicated staff member to monitor legislative affairs, Dupont said she does not see ¡DALE! or La Plaza operating the same way.

“For now, ¡DALE! and its members are really finding their voice, learning and taking their position on matters,” she said. “The business environment can be like a whole other world, and if you’re part of an immigrant group in America, how can you be a part of the business community? This is all about building bridges to answer that.”

Future events DALE plans on hosting are networking events, OSHA training, and education workshops on franchise business opportunities and lending opportunities. To learn more, visit: https://daledelaware.org/

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