Historic Westside businesses have new resources with UNLV

Business owner Miles Bunch grew up in the historic Westside district of Las Vegas, and his family used to run the now closed restaurant and lounge Chez Place.

Now, he runs his own food business with his wife, Valencia Lawrence, called Edible Bunch, a mobile vegan restaurant setting up shop at farmers’ markets and events across the Las Vegas Valley. But he said the business environment at Historic Westside is underdeveloped, making it difficult for small business owners like him to find support services.

“We don’t seem to get the same opportunity in terms of funding, as we do from other aspects of the city,” Bunch said, whose goal is to open a brick-and-mortar site.

That could change thanks to a $2.1 million federal grant from the US Department of Economic Development.

The grant, which is managed by UNLV, is being used to launch the UNLV Tourism Business Igniter, and will help hospitality and tourism-related businesses in the Historic Western District, Bo Bernhard, Vice President of Economic Development at UNLV, said in an email.

Officials held a ribbon cutting last week to reveal the new 850-square-foot space, located on the Nevada Partners nonprofit campus, 690 W Lake Maid Boulevard. Bernhard said the program will start early next year, and the scholarship should last for two years.

Ela Garcia, project manager at Nevada Partners, said the university and nonprofit organizations worked on the grant writing for the past year. She said the new federal money will cover some “universal services” such as child care and transportation costs, which can be a limiting factor for people starting a business.

“These resources that we wouldn’t normally have will be more accessible to them,” Garcia said.

UNLV Tourism Business Igniter participants will also have access to services offered by Nevada partners such as a computer lab, workshops, and meeting rooms, according to Garcia.

Bernhard noted that the torch would serve as a “meeting place” for small businesses. It will offer programs such as entrepreneurship classes, marketing and legal assistance, and mentorship from successful small businesses in the area.

different place

Bunch said the new ignition program could be “huge” for nearby businesses given its proximity to the Gaza Strip and downtown Las Vegas.

“There are a lot of companies trying to thrive[on the historical west side],” he said. “We’re right next door to downtown and it’s like a complete difference when you come from downtown and cross the bridge, and it’s like you’re in a different place.”

Bunch said he participated in a similar business development program run by Nevada Partners called Promise Startups, which helped him scale Edible Bunch.

“It showed me that I was on the right track,” he said. “And then she gave me some of the pieces I was missing and gave us different ideas about the possibilities of expanding your business.”

Bunch began developing the brand with his wife in 2019, and finally launched the company in January.

Clark County Commissioner William McCurdy said the Historic West District has been neglected in the past, but he believes the new federal funding will help improve the environment for small businesses.

“It’s only the West Side Historic District because it is west of the railroads, and historically, it was the only place where African Americans could be,” McCurdy said. “At one point, it had several hotels and was home to the Moulin Rouge, which was the first all-in-one hotel casino in all of Las Vegas. So, it all starts with telling and sharing the Westside story.”

The area has often been overlooked, but things are starting to take off with services like the new UNLV Tourism Business Igniter and recent development plans. Last month, Las Vegas City Council Agree to an agreement with developer Sam Cherry It calls for a five-story, 84-unit rental complex with a commercial space of 10,000 square feet.

Cherry, CEO of Cherry Development, told the Review-Journal that he envisions food and beverage outlets and hopefully a business incubator program at the $22 million project near Washington Street and Interstate 15.

recovery mode

McCurdy said the state has won a $2.1 million grant to help the city’s tourism industry, which has been devastated during the pandemic.

Southern Nevada received a total of $3.9 million with $2.1 million earmarked for the igniter program and $1.8 million to Las Vegas for pre-professional training in the culinary and hospitality sectors, according to a press release.

“The economy of Southern Nevada has been disproportionately affected by COVID, given the nature of the lack of a diversified economy and diversified revenue streams,” he said.

Garcia said Nevada Partners plans to focus on connecting businesses in the Historic Western Region with resources that will help them tap into the tourism industry, increasing their chances of success.

“There are a lot of little things that drive people to focus their business on tourism just because Las Vegas is known for tourism, and what better way to profit from your business, right?” She said.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at shemmersmeier@reviewjournal.com. Follow Lord save me on Twitter.

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