Holyoke mayoral candidate Joshua A. Garcia believes in supporting local business owners, particularly those who have been left in the dark by politicians who have been in office for many years. In a recent conversation with Latino business owners at the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and joined by Israel Rivera, candidate for Holyoke City Council At-Large, it was clear that there needs to be stronger advocacy for consistent treatment and better communication between City Hall and the business community, notably our BIPOC business community.
“Our local businesses, especially those that are ‘minority’ owned, feel underrepresented and often overlooked and disproportionately treated by the city,” Garcia said.
Joshua heard from owners that they need an organizational hub they can consult for support when complex issues arise — issues such as enforcement (Police Department, Building Department, and Health Department), the natural gas moratorium, public safety, etc. Jordan Hart, the Executive Director of the Holyoke Chamber, acknowledged its long standing gap between the organization and Latino owned businesses and is taking steps to close that gap to provide stronger advocacy and representation of our BIPC business owned community.
Garcia said businesses feel the city’s expectations are very high and often times unnecessary. Several examples were shared of questionable enforcement, including one from the Building Department requiring an owner to resolve a supposed “infraction” only to later find out it wasn’t an infraction at all, creating unnecessary stress. Joshua heard from owners who said they don’t mind doing what needs to be done to meet expectations because it’s their responsibility to ensure they are following the rules. Nevertheless, they shared that they have no other choice but to feel discriminated against when expectations for other establishments that have political capital are not as high.
Garcia said “downtown businesses contribute to the greater ecosystem of the business environment and it’s important as a local government that we help ALL business owners navigate expectations without getting in the way of their success. When elected, I will be sure to address the communication gap and also enforce consistency from all departments when working with ALL business establishments, not just a select few. I also look forward to strengthening our city’s partnership with the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce to be sure the Chamber, as the hub for all businesses in Holyoke, has the resources to support and promote all Holyoke businesses.”