Alfredo Martel, who has spent 30 years in business, will join the Minneapolis-based Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Meda) as CEO on Monday, succeeding Gary Cunningham, who left earlier this year for a job in Washington D.C.
"As the son of [immigrant] entrepreneurs, I am honored to build on the proud legacy of this important institution," Martel said in a statement released Thursday. "Meda has a remarkable history of fostering economic empowerment and advancing the success of minority entrepreneurs, and we are solidly poised for purposeful innovations in serving our clients."
In an interview, Martel, 54, expressed appreciation for the work under Cunningham that led to an expansion of Meda's equity capital from about $5 million to nearly $20 million over several years. Meda has added advisory and lending staff and increased capital contributions from foundations, financial institutions and others who value Meda's work in assisting fledgling businesses to grow and scale to profitable commercial success.
"[Martel's] vision, passion and commitment to developing and supporting successful minority enterprises — combined with his keen business experience, legacy of innovation, highly engaging and purpose-centric approach — will drive continued growth and economic vitality for our clients and their communities," Barbara Butts Williams, Meda board chairwoman, said in a prepared statement.
Martel, a native of Puerto Rico who was raised by Cuban-born parents, has held positions at several companies, including Caribou Coffee, KFC and Yum Brands. Before joining Meda, Martel served as chief marketing officer at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
A graduate of Cornell University with an MBA from Boston College, Martel also has served as chairman of the Brand Lab, a nonprofit diversity-in-marketing organization that works with young people.
He also served on the Walker board.
Martel plans to grow Meda's client list and deepen client services and technology tools.
"We want to make our operating model more efficient and we have to be faster and more economical," he said. "Every business needs that.
"The most important thing is that I have a shared view on our purpose and listening to our clients, staff and funders. And what we need to do to amplify our impact, through technology and low-investment amplification of what we do well. We're poised for great things."
Minorities, including immigrants, disproportionately start small businesses but often are stymied by lack of capital, corporate connections and business advisory services, which Meda seeks to address as it tries to help them scale to sustainability and commercial banking relationships.
Meda, with about $24 million in assets, posted a surplus of about $1 million in 2018 on revenue from grants, interest income and otherwise that grew nearly 25% to $7.4 million.
Meda last year provided $17.2 million in financing to 158 minority-owned businesses who employed nearly 1,000 workers paid an average of $22 per hour. Meda business advisers also worked with 974 firms, which secured $4 billion in corporate and government contracts. Cunningham, who left June 28 for Prosperity Now after a five-year run at Meda, was paid total compensation of about $365,000 in 2018.