Bernardo is Executive Director of the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation (HEDC). HEDC is a community development corporation that helps immigrants realize their potential as business entrepreneurs. Over the past 17 years, HEDC has assisted more than 1100 local business enterprises, in industries ranging from restaurants to auto repair, construction, accounting, commercial cleaning, media, architectural design, event rentals and translations. HEDC is the only organization in the Kansas City area and one of only a few in the Midwest providing bilingual business development services. HEDC’s work responds to the entrepreneurial dreams of immigrants and addresses the explosion of the immigrant population in the Midwest—the Latino population in the three counties where HEDC’s work is concentrated, Jackson in Missouri and Wyandotte and Johnson in Kansas, grew by an average of 50% between 2000-2008, while the average overall population growth was only 5%.
A recent LISC study found that, in the Northeast area of KCMO, more than 30% of previously vacant buildings are occupied by immigrant businesses. Outside of these enclaves, HEDC clients serve newly-emerging immigrant communities and create opportunity in highly desirable areas. In the process, they change stereotypes and break down barriers.