Joseph J. Gonzalez, owner of a 5-year-old construction firm, is a happy man: His Way West Construction is quickly growing, and he's working on creating 27 homes in Las Vegas.
Things weren't so rosy just last year.
Gonzalez's West Los Angeles business was limited to building additions to single-family homes or doing rehabilitation work. He couldn't afford the sophisticated engineering and architectural plans necessary to win bigger contracts.
Then he found the Los Angeles Minority Enterprise Growth Assistance Center, a federally funded, Downtown-based organization that helps minority-owned business by providing low-cost consulting services.
The MEGA Center, as the organization is known, has helped 307 businesses since it was created last year with funding by the Department of Commerce's Minority Development Agency, said Bob Alvarez, deputy director of the MEGA Center. The consulting work for the businesses has resulted in $50 million in financing and $34 million in procurements.
The center, whose $3.1-million government contract is administered by the Cordoba Corp., employs 25 full-time consultants, ranging from engineers to investment bankers, to help their clients. Clients pay $10 to $17.50 per hour, compared to the usual market value fees of $200 to $300 per hour.
The goal is to help established small or mid-size businesses that are often thwarted in their efforts to expand or go into a new market.
"Oftentimes, (businesses) go to the bank and the bank will ask them, 'Where is your business? What does the market look like?' " said Alvarez. "A lot of times the minority businesses don't have a business plan, or have been successful but can't articulate it."
Or, it can be as simple as the business just not having the money to spend on sophisticated consultants, Alvarez said. That was the case of Manny Gonzalez, 27, who needed a business plan for his clothing company, which pays ex-gang members and graffiti vandals for their designs.
Gonzalez's company, Peace Wear, sells the casual clothing at small and large stores across the country, but Gonzalez wants to expand the company so he can provide jobs for youths who don't have artistic talent.
The MEGA Center is at 355 S. Grand Ave., Suite 1150, Los Angeles. Information is available at (800) 4LA-MEGA or (213) 613-1300.