Baltimore's Latino Economic Development Center will open a satellite office along Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Wednesday.

The office, to be located in space donated by the Southeast Community Development Corporation, is being set up to provide support "to existing and potential immigrant business owners," according to a release from the mayor's office. The office will help those business owners and potential owners with loans, technical assistance and training, the release said.

"Research shows that entrepreneurship is quite prevalent in the immigrant community," Rawlings-Blake said in the statement. "Developing the necessary tools to ensure immigrants have access to entrepreneurial opportunities is vital in making Baltimore a welcoming city."

It will be funded by the Community Development Block Grant as well as a grant from the Abell Foundation, the release said.

Southeast Community Development Corporation Director Chris Ryer said Highlandtown has "reinvented itself" thanks to new immigrant-owned businesses.

"It has been said that foreign-born Americans begin small businesses at twice the rate of native-born Americans, and I believe that is true in Highlandtown," Ryer said in the statement.

The LEDC began operating a micro-loan program in 1997, and has helped 600 entrepreneurs start or expand businesses with $7 million in aid since, the release stated.

"LEDC is thrilled to expand our small business lending services to neighborhoods like Highlandtown and the greater Baltimore area through out Community Asset Fund for Entrepreneurs to equip business owners with the capital to improve their lives and strengthen their communities," LEDC interim executive director Marla Bilonick said in the release.

sjwelsh@baltsun.com

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