The Valley Center Opportunity Zone (VCOZ) came into being as the result of a collaborative effort between the Hispanic and African-American Communities of Las Vegas. Representatives of the Latin and Urban Chambers got buy-in from Assemblymen Morse Arberry, Jr. and Mo Denis, along with State Senator Steven Horsford to seek funding for a proposal to provide grant assistance to For-Profit small businesses located in the central area of Las Vegas during the 2005/06 legislative session. Chamber member Louie Overstreet, then with the Urban Chamber, along with Chamber members Donovan Chambers and Chuck Bremer drafted the proposal. Members of the Latin Chamber to include Tony Sanchez, Robert Gomez, and Otto Mérida provided big time help in pitching the proposal to legislators.
Through these efforts, VCOZ received a million dollars in funding during the 2005-2006 legislative session and an additional half-million dollars from 2007-2008 Legislature. Businesses that were and are eligible for grant funding must reside or are willing to relocate within the bounds of Nellis Avenue on the East, Rancho Drive on the West, Craig Avenue on the North, and Charleston Avenue on the South.
The VCOZ board is comprised of Carlos Gomez, Board Chairman, Eric James, Vice President, Edgar "Tee" Taylor, Board Vice Chairman, is a retired labor relations executive with Chrysler; and Louie Overstreet, is a retired civil engineer. Peter Guzman, a Real Estate Executive is serving as the President/CEO of VCOZ and his administrative assistant is Kelly Espinoza.
Louie Overstreet noted that "persons in the community of Las Vegas have for a number of years been working on activities that could be pursued jointly through social, political, and economic venues." VCOZ President/CEO Peter Guzman stated, "The formation of VCOZ was one of the first tangible results of a positive collaboration resulting in economic benefit for the Hispanic and African-American communities."
"Our success rate, given that we are working with businesses that traditional lenders will not deal with, is very laudable," Robert Gomez, Board Chairman exclaimed. He went on to add "with this track record, even with the state experiencing some budget issues, our Board and staff feel our programmatic efforts deserve serious funding consideration during the upcoming session of the Nevada Legislature."
"Volunteering our time to help others achieve their business goals, often against long odds, is very rewarding. Our story is one we are chronicling in annual reports to elected officials," Board Vice Chairman Tee Taylor observed.
Ex Director Tony Lopez indicated that nearly thirty businesses have benefitted from VCOZ grant assistance. “A variety of businesses have become or remained viable as a result of action taken by the VCOZ Board,” stated Mr. Lopez. "A shoe store in the 'Arts District,' a construction company specializing in remodeling office space, a teen learning center, a tourism website, a sandwich shop near the Fremont Experience and a licensed beauty school are just a few of the types of businesses we have provided assistance," Tony went on to note.
|Interview with Peter Guzman, VCOZ President/CEO|
Board of Directors
EDGAR L. TAYLOR —Board Chairman
ERIC JAMES — Vice Chairman
LOUIE E. OVERSTREET — Secretary/Treasurer
CARLOS GOMEZ — Board Member
PETER GUZMAN — President/CEO
EVELYN KACHIRISKY— Executive Assistant