Today, the Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota (LACM) touches the lives of hundreds of Lao-Americans in Minnesota each year. LACM was formed by ethnic Lao refugees in 1981 and attained its nonprofit charitable status in 1983. It was founded to respond to the emerging needs of new arriving Lao refugees who were not Hmong. LACM’s diverse programs range from youth advancement and elder empowerment, to employment, health outreach prevention and intervention, and cultural engagement.
LACM partnering with the Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA), seeks to better serve the Lao business community by examining the capacity of business resources to serve the Lao community.
This project specifically looked at resources, both monetary and non-monetary, that serve businesses that aim to start-up or grow in North Minneapolis. These resources ranged from grants and loans to technical assistance and training.
Research and interviews with fourteen monetary and/or non-monetary resources for businesses led to the discovery that none have their information and program materials available in Lao and only one organization had materials available in languages other than English. None of the organizations indicated they had a set protocol in place for dealing with individuals that speak Lao or Hmong. Two organizations suggested that individuals interested in starting a business should be able to speak English because it is our “official language” and they will be dealing with American suppliers, manufacturers, and clients. Although several did indicate they would (or had in the past) contacted a translator to assist the individual. Only one of the fourteen organizations mentioned using an ethnic media outlet, and that organization indicated the marketing they did was tabling and working with the Asian Chamber of Commerce. Three organizations solely provided monetary support, three organizations provided only non-monetary support, and eight provided both monetary and non-monetary support. Several organizations indicated they had partnerships with the City of Minneapolis to use their translators, but did not have the in-house capacity to serve those that did not speak English.