Spokane County business association expands range of support
The HBPA has been serving its Hispanic community for decades, helping students, businesses, and families find their footing.
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After several decades of operation, the Hispanic Business Professional Association of Spokane (HBPA) is growing from a local grassroots organization to one with supporters across Washington state.
Recent funders of the HBPA include Spokane-based Innovia Foundation, Avista Foundation, Empire Health Foundation, Group Health Foundation, and the Washington State Department of Health.
Last year, the credit union BECU awarded the HBPA $15,000 grant for its youth education programs, $10,000 of which was placed into a newly established endowed fund at Innovia, named the Hispanic Business Professional Association Endowment Fund.
The HBPA’s work includes supporting students, one way being through its Latinos Unidos en Accion (LUNA) program. This program enrolls approximately 200 students a year, connecting the Hispanic students with Spokane resources, scholarships, and other services to help them academically, culturally, and emotionally.
Originally beginning in the 1980s as a social group, the first HBPA members would flip through the Yellow Pages looking for people with Hispanic last names, asking if they wanted to join. The social group soon grew into a volunteer organization that sought to raise money for student scholarships.
Since 1993, the HBPA has been recognizing Hispanic graduates from high school and college through LUNA.
The HBPA however, has not solely focused on Hispanic students, giving their support to Hispanic businesses, as well. On their website, you can find a directory of the 175 Hispanic-owned businesses and Hispanic patronized businesses across Spokane.
Many of these businesses are street vendors who are engaged in crafts or art. In order to keep them in business, the HBPA focuses on ensuring that they all have the proper certifications and understanding of both state and federal laws.
To further this, the HBPA holds workshops in the fall meant to provide education on permits, some of which are entirely in Spanish. At these workshops, they also help small businesses pay for licenses and permits.
Since the pandemic, Vice President of Business Affairs Isabel Mazcot de Torres has assisted nearly 25 businesses receive loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), from the Economic Injury Disaster, and grants ranging from $10,000 to $200,000.
But to help the Hispanic communities, the HBPA’s Esperanza program, a bilingual social services program, works with families and individuals to become self-sufficient.
Mazcot de Torres and her husband have also brought together their financial experience and years of work with credit unions to form Torres Tax & Accounting LLC to help Spokane businesses manage their finances. They have said that nine out of ten businesses they support have been Hispanic or Spanish speaking.
The HBPA, located in downtown Spokane, continues its goals of diversifying the downtown area and establishing more Hispanic businesses. Hispanics currently make up 7% of Spokane County's population, a number that has doubled since Mazcot de Torres arrived in the U.S.