New organization seeks to strengthen the Latino business community

The Joliet Latino Economic Development Association brings resources and opportunities to members

Joliet Latino Economic Development Association is less than a year old and is already 15 members strong.

Since it was founded in November 2020, Joliet LEDA has hosted one major event summer event, the Joliet Community Market, and will co-host – with Unidos Marketing Network – the Joliet Latino Fest on Sept. 18 in downtown Joliet.

Alex Páramo, president and a founder of Joliet LEDA, said Joliet LEDA wants to strengthen the Latino business community by increasing engagement and offering real life opportunities.

The need for Joliet LEDA

Páramo said that when he previously joined other local organizations that focused on economic development, he often heard that it was hard to get engagement and membership from the Latino community. He said part of the reason is that Latino business owners sometimes live “in two worlds,” especially if they were raised in families that primary spoke Spanish.

“A lot of our extended family is tied to the culture and the language,” Páramo said.

Consequently, Latino business owners are sometimes unsure how to navigate the less familiar culture, even if they ran businesses in Mexico, he said.

“They come here and have to learn a new system,” Páramo said. “And maybe things work differently. Or maybe they [the business owners] might not be documented.”

During the pandemic, for instance, some Latino business owners were unfamiliar with the various grants given out through Joliet, Will County and the state of Illinois, Páramo said. Some didn’t know about the loans through the Payment Protection Program, he added.

This is because some Latino business owners don’t always understand how funding works in the different levels of government, Páramo said. That’s why events such as the Joliet Community market and its 30 vendors were so important, Páramo said.

“I think it helps build community,” Páramo said. “We want to provide real opportunities for businesses in Joliet.”

Gaining recognition in the larger business community

Páramo said Joliet LEDA was a recipient of the 2021 Small Business Community Navigator Program grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. It’s a hub program, which means the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce received the grant and then launched the Illinois Latino Small Business Partnership, which included Joliet LEDA.

Especially since Joliet LEDA is relatively new, Páramo is grateful that Joliet LEDA was considered to be part of that cohort.

“It’s a great program,” he said.

Páramo said he grew up on Joliet’s East side. He graduated from Joliet West in 2014 and earned his Bachelor of Science in management science and engineering from Stanford University.

He is chief of staff at Cabrera Capital Markets, a Latino-owned investment bank and brokerage firm, and he serves on the board for the United Way of Will County, the Greater Joliet YMCA and The Art Movement, Inc., according to his biography on the Joliet LEDA website.

Although Joliet LEDA will primarily serve Latino business owners, Páramo would like to help other underserved business owners to expand and compete. These could include women-owned businesses, Black and other minority-owned businesses and businesses owned by disabled veterans, Páramo said.

For more information, visit