Representatives from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED), the University of Nebraska Omaha Office of Latino/Latin American Studies (OLLAS), and local nonprofits gathered with community members in South Omaha yesterday evening to discuss plans for economic development and review the results of a recent survey of Latino businesses regarding the impact of the pandemic. 

DED Deputy Director Dan Curran was on hand to discuss a statewide initiative by DED to revitalize potentially underserved areas of Nebraska, including but not limited to North and South Omaha, through new plans and partnerships for economic growth.

During the event, Curran described DED’s plans to expand resources for business, housing and workforce development in South Omaha. Over the past year, the agency has conducted over 100 Business Expansion/Retention (BRE) interviews with South Omaha businesses to gain insights into obstacles and opportunities facing their success. The BRE interviews are an extension of the hundreds more conducted by DED annually statewide to gauge economic needs and influence sound economic decision-making.  

“It has been a privilege to engage with so many businesses, organizations and community members to discuss the numerous ways we can collaborate to build an even stronger and more vibrant economy in South Omaha,” said Curran. “We look forward to what we will achieve together in 2022 and beyond.”

OLLAS Director Dr. Cristian Doña-Reveco, meanwhile, debuted the results of a recent survey by UNO that was conducted to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Latino businesses and entrepreneurs. Among other notable outcomes, he said, the survey showed that Latino businesses displayed incredible resilience through economic adversity, despite facing unique challenges that could be addressed through future initiatives and partnerships.

“The Latino business community is one of the fastest-growing sectors in Nebraska, and it is incredibly important that we work to understand how the pandemic created new or added to existing challenges,” said Doña-Reveco. “While we have learned there is work to be done to overcome obstacles, our survey has highlighted the resilience of the Latino business community in South Omaha, and can serve as a guidepost for future policy and decision-making.”

Midwest Businesses and Projects Founder and CEO, Marta Sonia Londono Mejia, was present to represent her organization, which is serving as DED’s lead contractor in South Omaha and helping to guide the agency’s mission through relationship-building with the Latino business community. Starting last year, her company took a lead role in the BRE interview process in South Omaha, also hosting a series of public meetings that saw local business owners gather to learn about entrepreneurial resources available through the State and various nonprofit groups. Her company also supported OLLAS and UNO students in administering surveys for the pandemic study.

Midwest Businesses and Projects will continue to play an important role in the DED-led initiative moving forward. It has since developed a new resource on its website,, that is designed to help Latino business owners discover and connect with various State and other resources that may be able to help them launch or grow their business.  

Also in attendance were representatives from numerous nonprofits that have collaborated with DED, OLLAS and Midwest Businesses and Projects to support the initiative. These include the Nebraska Business Development Center, the Greater Omaha Chamber, Nebraska Enterprise Fund, Center for Rural Affairs, Catholic Charities of Omaha and Omaha Community Foundation.     

“This has been an incredible team effort that took the support and expertise of nearly a dozen organizations, all working together toward the common goal of serving the community,” said Londono Mejia. “But it’s the businesses and people of South Omaha we have to thank the most for coming together to provide their insights and share their successes and struggles. We could do nothing without their support.”  

To learn more about DED’s initiative in South Omaha, or to connect, contact Marta Sonia Londono Mejia at

To access the full study by OLLAS — “Vulnerable, Yet Resilient: The Impact of COVID-19 on Latino-Owned Businesses in South Omaha — click here.

To stay up-to-date or learn more about DED’s statewide programs — including resources for starting or expanding a business — visit the Department website at The website can be viewed in languages other than English by scrolling to the bottom and using the dropdown language menu.