ACCELERATE El Paso is a strategic initiative led by the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society program to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on Latino-majority cities and communities in the U.S through local data, and to accelerate the recovery of small businesses by leveraging federal stimulus funding and related opportunities for long-term growth.


Across the U.S, Latino-majority cities and communities are striving to advance equitable small business recovery and to stimulate opportunities for long-term growth in the devastating wake of COVID-19.  The success of these efforts will turn on the availability of quality local data and the collaborative strength of communities facing similar challenges.

ACCELERATE El Paso is a strategic initiative led by the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society program, in partnership with Drexel University’s Nowak Metro Finance Lab and Christopher Gergen, the CEO of impact investment firm, Forward Impact and Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow, to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on El Paso’s economy and accelerate the recovery of small businesses by navigating federal stimulus funding and other opportunities for long-term growth.

Even before COVID-19, an El Paso small business owner who was looking for support would find resources that were, at best, fragmented at best and, at worst, incomplete.  ACCELERATE El Paso’s Steering Committee will help address that gap.  Working in partnership with the City of El Paso and El Paso County, the Steering Committee will bring together leaders from the public, private, and civic sectors in El Paso to help guide the project and identify funding opportunities.

Committee Members

Our community, and our Latino-owned and operated businesses, need support and guidance in this challenging moment of transition and regrowth. ACCELERATE El Paso will help our city utilize data and align ecosystem priorities through a community-informed process to ensure our economy receives the stimulus funding it needs to thrive again. 

Through this initiative, the coalition will:

  1. Undertake a comprehensive analysis of the current small business economy and the impact COVID-19 had on Latino-led businesses.

  2. Prepare an actionable and equitable economic recovery and growth plan for the local Latino business community, with recommendations on how to leverage local investment with prospective federal stimulus funding, other public funding opportunities, and private investment; and

  3. Build connections and cross-city learning opportunities with other Latino-majority cities that are also implementing related recovery and resiliency strategies, as well as national funders and partners.

This initiative draws on quality data and collaboration that helps us make informed decisions about how to best stabilize and grow El Paso’s Latino small business economy and identify sources of funding to implement these priorities. 

The Facts

COVID-19 had a negative impact across a majority of small businesses and a disproportionate impact on Hispanic-owned businesses (HOBs).

  • At the national level, the number of Hispanic business owners fell by 32% over the crucial two-month window from February to April 2020, versus 17% of white-owned businesses.
  • By May 2021, El Paso’s small business revenue was still 12% lower than pre-COVID levels, largely due to lower productivity, project delays and increases in costs.
  • A national survey conducted by the Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative showed that, across the country, HOBs had less access to federal relief. In 2020, Hispanic-owned businesses had their PPP loans approved at nearly half the rate of White-owned businesses, 10% compared to 17%.  An even smaller proportion of Hispanic-owned businesses obtained full funding relative to White-owned businesses, 3% compared to 7%.


However, data shows the pandemic widened a gap that already existed among Hispanic-owned businesses in El Paso. These gaps in the business ecosystem are jeopardizing long-term wealth-building opportunities for Hispanics.

  • 83% of the El Paso population is Hispanic, yet only 43% of employer businesses are Hispanic owned, versus 80% of nonemployer businesses that are Hispanic-owned (2017).
  • The growth rate for employer non-Hispanic owned businesses was +33% compared to a 6% decrease for employer Hispanic-owned businesses (2012-2017). Data suggests that HOBs were excluded from growing sectors, such as professional services, information, other services, and health care and social assistance.
  • There are also gaps in the business size, with the average firm size of $1.1M for employer HOBs versus $2.4M in non-Hispanic Owned businesses. The biggest gaps were found in the sectors manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, and administrative and support.


This is a pivotal moment for the El Paso economy. While the aftermath of COVID-19 created disruption and loss, resulting in inequities and widening existing gaps – federal investment in economy-shaping activities is at an all-time high.

  • There are opportunities for investment and growth to ensure El Paso’s full potential is being leveraged by industries with economic stability, including the first piece of federal recovery in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
  • The two fact sheets below present the economic landscape in El Paso, showcasing socio-economic trends, statistics and COVID-19 indicators among Hispanic-owned businesses in El Paso.

Support for Accelerate El Paso

“Prior to the pandemic, Latino business owners accounted for the highest rate of new business creation in the U.S., growing at a rate of 34% in the past decade. El Paso’s small business economy, which is overwhelmingly Latino, contributed to this growth. Now federal stimulus funds and other recovery resources offer our business community unprecedented opportunities for investment and advancement. Accelerate El Paso will help us merge data and experience to make that happen.”
Ed Escudero
President and CEO, High Desert Capital, LLC
“We aren’t in this alone. Opportunities to collaborate and learn from other Latino-majority cities that are implementing similar recovery and resiliency strategies will help bolster El Paso’s small business growth. Accelerate El Paso and Aspen’s City Learning and Action Lab are making that happen by helping local leaders to connect with others from around the country who are also seeking to leverage local investment with prospective funding opportunities.”
Nicole Ferrini
Chief Resilience Officer, City of El Paso
“Our goal with Accelerate El Paso is to help spur economic growth in a culturally and historically rich region where COVID-19 exacerbated long-existing inequities. This initiative allows local leaders to attract critically-needed capital investment and resources to the Latino small business community.”

Christopher Gergen
CEO, Forward Impact
“The County is proud to support the efforts of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program, Forward Impact, and the Hunt Institute in developing the Accelerate El Paso initiative that will aid Latino-led small businesses in our community. This work helps ensure that our economy’s post-pandemic recovery and growth plan is impactful and long-lasting.”
Michael Hernandez
Director, Economic Development, County of El Paso
“Our Steering Committee will ensure that small businesses in El Paso receive the attention, guidance, and financial support needed to recover from a global pandemic that shook our region’s economy. Historically, national data shows Latino owned businesses have less access to capital and federal relief, and the COVID-19 pandemic only widened that gap. We need to ensure El Paso’s small business owners have equal access to the same economic opportunities and recovery funds.”
Lupe Mares
Vice President, Southwest Region at LiftFund
“The Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program is proud to be part of this initiative that will work to identify sources of local and national funding in order to help our Latino-owned businesses rebuild after the onset of the pandemic. Latino-owned businesses are the backbone of the Borderplex region’s economy, and it is important to give them the tools they need to optimize growth. This initiative allows us to collaborate with local leaders to aid the Latino business community in recovering from the impact of the pandemic and its many aftershocks.”
Domenika Lynch
Executive Director, Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program
“Latino-majority cities, including El Paso, have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this can be especially seen in our small business communities. By May 2021, El Paso’s small business revenue was still 12% lower than pre-COVID levels. Through Accelerate El Paso, we can pool knowledge and resources to advance equitable small business recovery, increase access to capital, and target investment into critical commercial corridors.”
Beto Pallares
President and CEO, Joseph Advisory Services
“Latino-owned businesses have been a major driver of the U.S. economy, but they are fewer and smaller and tend to be more concentrated in the lowest-paying sectors than white-owned businesses. By advancing new initiatives and intermediaries, El Paso has the potential to be a recognized national leader in the effort to start and scale Latino-owned businesses across multiple sectors.”
Bruce Katz
Co-founder, Nowak Metro Finance Lab
“The COVID-19 pandemic hit El Paso hard. Hunt Institute research shows that Hispanic-owned businesses suffered greatly during the pandemic but have received a disproportionately small percentage of stimulus funding to date. New funding sources create an opportunity to not just build back that business base but to improve it. Empirical data is essential for justifying and directing federal and state funding to reinvigorate the regional economy. The Hunt Institute is excited to use our expertise to provide this necessary information. This data - coupled with the experience and leadership of our partners at Accelerate El Paso - will amplify El Paso’s strengths and fuel a resilient, dynamic economy.”
Mayra Maldonado
Director, Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness
“The Paycheck Protection Program was meant to help small and medium-sized businesses weather the pandemic, but data shows that last year Hispanic-owned businesses were approved for PPP loans at a significantly lower rate than non-minority owned businesses, 10 percent to 17 percent. In a city like El Paso, where three-quarters of all businesses are Hispanic-owned, that discrepancy has a big impact. Accelerate El Paso represents a united, organized, and data-driven effort to ensure that this does not happen again with new rounds of stimulus funding.”
Andrea Tawney
Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Texas Tech Health Sciences Center El Paso
“Accelerate El Paso brings necessary comprehensive economic growth strategies to the Borderplex. The contributions that Latino-owned small businesses make to our region do not go unnoticed, and we must continue to support them as they recover from financial challenges stemming from the pandemic, while positioning our region to be highly competitive for the many federal funding opportunities arising out of COVID-19. I am thankful to Accelerate El Paso for leading this important effort.”
Emma Schwartz
President, Medical Center of the Americas
“This is a crucial time for the El Paso economy as the business community is faced with financial losses and amplification of pre-existing inequities that were stimulated by COVID-19. Federal investment in economy-shaping is at an all-time high and the BBB is grateful to Accelerate El Paso and its partners for making a recovery plan using federal dollars a tangible option.”
Marybeth Stevens
President, Better Business Bureau El Paso

For more information on AILAS, or the ACCELERATE El Paso initiative, please contact Eddy Angélica Encinales or Adriana Sudimack. We will continue to provide updates on this initiative as the project advances.