Mercado Central is a thriving marketplace of 45 businesses at the corner of Lake Street and Bloomington Avenue in Minneapolis. Based on a model of fostering business development, the same group that developed Mercado Central later expanded its mission and created LEDC.
LEDC did not formally exist when this project began, but LEDC’s founders Juan Linares, Ramon Leon, Sal Miranda, and others were also the founders of Mercado Central, which became a national model of community economic development. They began a community organizing process at Sagrado Corazón church in South Minneapolis in 1992, believing that their growing number and economic power could lead to advancement in their social status in the community. They wanted to address and overcome barriers to their full participation and success in the general society. They realized that economic progress had to be theirfirst imperative. They realized that Latinos should take ownership andresponsibilities related to their own growth and in a disciplined manner. They also needed to build their capacity in order to prove that they are a contribution to their adopted country.
The group requested the assistance of “Interfaith Action” a faith based social justice organization in order to help them organize and to provide them with leadership trainings. The first “Latino immigrant caucus” was formed and after the first retreat in 1994, two teams were formed: The Joint committee on immigration, and the economic development committee. The economic development committee proposed the formation of an organization that would focus on building economic power and to promote economic opportunities. As a first step they partnered with non-profit organizations to work on their first project, “Mercado Central”. Although the LEDC was not yet formally established then, they planted the seeds of the organization. After the successful opening of Mercado Central, the same group that founded it, along with other Latino leaders from all different fields, reconvened in order to start planning what became the Latino Economic Development Center of MN.