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A skyline that sprouts new buildings at a dizzying pace. Neighborhoods dotted with new breweries and renovated mills. Thousands of new apartments springing up beside light rail lines. The signs of Charlotte’s booming prosperity are everywhere. But that prosperity isn’t spread evenly. And from Charlotte’s “corridors of opportunity,” it can seem a long way off, more like a distant promise than the city’s reality.

Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte reveals plans for $20M economic development center

A crowd of people gather in a building in the Albemarle Road corridor to hear about plans for a $20 million economic development center coming to east Charlotte.
Elvis Menayese
A crowd of people gather in a building in the Albemarle Road corridor to hear about plans for a $20 million economic development center coming to east Charlotte.

The Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte revealed today plans to create a $20 million center that will focus on boosting economic mobility for residents in one of the city’s Corridors of Opportunity.

A crowd gathered inside a building in the Albemarle corridor that will soon be transformed into a center to support small businesses, train workers and spark entrepreneurship.

Spark Centro is intended to serve all community members but with a focus on the county’s growing Latino population. Gris Bailey is the president and CEO of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte; she said the center will help fill a void in the corridor.

“We lack a concentrated center where these small businesses can come and get resources. We have so many great resources in our city, but the trust factor is not there,” Bailey said. "So, when you say there are resources here in uptown, our businesses are not going to go there to receive them. They will come here because it's a trusted space that we're going to build for them.”

Spark Centro will be located on a nine-acre site near Albemarle Road and W.T. Harris Boulevard. The center will partner with local organizations to host workshops and provide coaching focused on boosting economic mobility.

Marta Tataje serves on the chamber's board of directors.

“There are so many people who have great ideas, but perhaps they have no way of knowing how to start their business. There are people who maybe know how to start their business, but then they may not have the capital; so, what we intend to do here, the vision for Spark Centro, is to have all these types of information and all types of resources available for whomever wants to be an entrepreneur and start their own small business,” Tataje said.

So far, around $4 million have been raised for the center. The funds come from the city, county and other local groups. The Latin American Chamber hopes to start construction on the building at the end of this year and open the following year.

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Elvis Menayese is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race and equity for WFAE. He previously was a member of the Queens University News Service. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.