Several organizations are teaming up to form the Austin Area Minority Business Project to help address the legal needs of the area’s emerging immigrant and minority business community.

Immigrant business owners and their employees face legal barriers to success. Unfamiliarity with American regulations and American business networks often make those hurdles higher.

The team is made up of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, Latino Economic Development Center, Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research, and the Lindquist and Vennum pro bono team.

It will provide services that include improving access to legal immigration and citizenship, reviewing rental and vendor contracts, tax advice, networking and helping to gain access to financing.

While the number of non-Latinos in Austin decreased between 2000 and 2010, the Latino population more than doubled. In Austin, 10.3 percent of the population is foreign-born, more than 40 percent higher than the state average.

The Austin Area Minority Business Project also will provide services to immigrant populations in Owatonna, Albert Lea, and other small communities along the Interstate 35 and Interstate 90 corridors.

Those interested can learn more by contacting the Austin Area Minority Business Project at 507-460-8948.

Mark Brunswick


City joins the search for dementia solutions

Duluth has joined nearly 50 cities statewide that are working to develop ways of coping with the rising tide of dementia among Minnesota residents. One in nine Minnesotans older than 65 has Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Among those over 85, that jumps to one in three. And that doesn’t include other forms of dementia.

Under the Dementia-Friendly Duluth program, community leaders will work together to determine how to make the city a better place for dementia sufferers and caregivers. The program is funded in large part by a grant from the Otto Bremer Trust.

“Quite often, people with dementia are isolated and suffer in silence,” said Mimi Stender, program coordinator. “And so we want to make sure that they have places where they can go out in the community and feel good and safe and comfortable.” That might be a cafe geared toward people with dementia, for example, or a community choir for dementia patients and their caregivers.

“The broad goals are as simple as education and awareness,” said Kathy Heimbach, executive director of the nonprofit Victory Fund, which is helping to fund the effort. “How people access services, how they are moving around the city, how they are functioning in the grocery store. We hope to get into those community services and make those folks aware of how to identify and deal with these individuals.”