When you listen to Steve Hogan, mayor of Aurora, Colorado’s second largest city, it’s difficult not to conjecture what’s on his mind, as he attends plenty of functions involving the immigrant communities that are a part of the city he leads. These functions occur all over Aurora, each day of the week.
Hogan, who is running for re-election to a second term, believes the presence of a burgeoning African immigrant community is leaving a positive mark on the way the city does business.
And the mayor is working to create and build the understanding that there is value and potential to be gained from this. It is a benefit for the city, something Hogan wants us to understand, if the entire community can tap into this diversity, with almost 140 different countries and languages represented.
This is clearly a man with a mission for Aurora.
“I firmly believe that someday we will be the largest city in Colorado, and it will happen not because of people who are already here, but because of others who move here,” according to the mayor.
“And they will move here because they will hear, they will understand, and they will see just how wonderful a community Aurora is.”
Mike Coffman, the Republican member of Congress who represents parts of the city, shares in this vision.
“What is so exciting about Aurora is that it is one of the most diverse cities in the United States,” according to Coffman.
Edward Cadena, district director for the United States Small Business Administration(SBA) for the State of Colorado, shares in this vision as well.
“This is what the world looks like, this is the way America looks. The fact that we are bringing America to Aurora, I want to see us take America to the world and do business with the world, “according to Cadena, who hails from New Mexico.
At a July 25 Business Education and Mentorship event organized in Aurora by the African Leadership Group (ALG), a group that is fostering the integration of Africans into the fabric of American society, Hogan, Coffman, and Cadena, respectively echoed sentiments about why it’s important for all hands to be the deck for these goals to be achieved.
For Hogan who wants to open the doors of the city to everyone, he said he won’t be mayor forever. The mayor may have been sending a signal, and asking for his audience to seize the moment while he is in office.
Is there something to be read from this? Or was this just talk, one might ask.
“I will be mayor for only a short time…but I believe if we start on a journey of working together, and moving ahead, we will be able to fulfill what I believe is an absolute wonderful destiny for the city of Aurora.”
That destiny, Hogan said, is one that is diverse and special as the city is, can be, and will be for him. That is, a city that works for everyone, not just for some.
“It is the beginning of a journey for this community.”
For Cadena, the African community needs to think and act globally in their approach to business.
He said there are plenty of tools and resources available for small businesses, such as SCORE which offers counseling services, the Small Business Development Centers(SBDC), the New Americans Initiative. He said immigrants start businesses two times more than other Americans do. Cadena urged the community to utilize the resources his office offers, to grow their businesses.
“You are not by yourself.”
On his part, ALG leader, Papa Dia, stated that the community does not want handouts, but they want to work to make a difference by learning and contributing to growth in Aurora. They are eager to play, yet they want to be at the table where important decisions are made.
“We clearly understand, in order for me from Africa to grow and prosper, I need to learn from the locals.”
Dia introduced some members of his team, such as Alphonse Nde Nembot from Cameroon, who has started his own translation company in Colorado. Other members of the ALG team, such as Aminata Keita, leads the African Women Empowerment Group. Keita lauded Coffman for opening his offices to the group where she said they now hold their meetings.
Dia said there are plenty of new skills that members of his community need to learn. The way they want to go about this is to learn from more experienced people in the community. He said these skills are needed to help them move forward in the city.
At the event, ALG mentees were paired with selected mentors from the community, including freelance journalist, Tamara Banks, and Maya Wheeler who is running for an at-large position with the Aurora City Council.