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Directory created for Latino-Somali businesses in area

WILLMAR -- The Multicultural Market of Willmar is offering a new service to increase the exposure of the 34 Latino- and Somali-owned area businesses.

Coordinator Roberto Valdez has created a directory for the businesses in La Gran America, a Willmar-based newspaper published monthly in Spanish, Somali and English.

The directory, which was published for the first time in the paper's July issue, features a listing of addresses and phone numbers for Somali and Latino businesses in the area. One business owner is also profiled monthly.

"It's sort of a 'get to know your neighbor' sort of thing," Valdez said.

The directory is part of an overall project to promote general knowledge of Willmar's many ethnic businesses, Valdez said. He said their economic force, especially in Willmar's downtown district, is often overlooked.

"People underestimate the buying power of these groups," he said.

Ken Warner, president of the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, said ethnic businesses have become so commonplace in Willmar that some can fall under the radar for both the immigrant community and larger community alike. He said Latino and Somali entrepreneurs, who may be new to the community and have few contacts, could benefit especially from any additional exposure that a business directory or profile would provide.

"In the Latino and Somali communities especially, it's often not what you know but who you know," he said.