The Vermont Slauson Economic Development (VSEDC) Corporation has planted many seeds throughout Southern Los Angeles. They grow into fields of abundance and harvested wealth within underrepresented communities. VSEDC has plowed many opportunities for first-time business owners with the mission to “expand the needs for economic and small business development solutions in South Los Angeles.”
As president and CEO, Joseph “Joe” T. Rouzan, is the leading vessel that drives VSEDC through areas of the city that holds the potential for a massive surge in business ownership and expansion in job opportunities. This response puts the power of prosperity back into the hands of the South Los Angeles community.
VSEDC has been a footnote within the economic story of South Los Angeles since 1979. Developed by the citizen advisory committee, headed by former Mayor Tom Bradley, due to the aftermath of a shutdown of the Sears department store in the South Los Angeles community, many Angelenos lost their main source of income. VSEDC was created to build a stronger stream of opportunity to nourish every household in the neighborhood.
As the mitochondria for community resources, VSEDC supplies the ingredients for a successful business venture. This includes funding, business planning, training, and development. It provides the flag needed to claim ownership, taking a stand in the economic playing field, and provides a voice in the conversation surrounding Los Angeles business. VSEDC summarized their principle in one unwavering fact, “South Los Angeles matters.”
This non-profit organization holds a stake in regional government platforms, leading to the revitalization of the Vermont jurisdiction. They work closely with public officials and private sectors to funnel monetary resources in present gaps in the community. VSEDC is merited as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI); they are one of the only non-profit organizations that can provide community and small business loans.
The Community Development Financial Institutions Program (CDFI Program) partnered with VSEDC to create a bridge for independence, constructing a lane for people of color that are seeking financial improvement and business ownership. The greater the channel for minority-owned businesses to thrive, the louder the voice of the community.
Together, the CDFI Program and VSEDC cultivated attainable financial products and services that work as a beacon toward wealth for the entire community. Those looking to empower themselves through ownership, follow the VSEDC model and find themselves creating wealth for themselves and opportunities for their neighborhood to flourish.
With the CDFI program support, VSEDC can distribute loans, grants, equity investments, deposits, and credit union shares. VSEDC is held accountable to match dollar-to-dollar with non-federal funds. As a result, the synergy business empowerment has grown throughout the southern region of Los Angeles and magnifies the impact of federal attention to meet the growth in demand. The CDFI program includes technical assistance grants, health food financing initiatives, and training resources.
VSEDC provides a platform for the diverse demographic found in South Los Angeles and caters to what is needed for their small businesses to grow. VSEDC offers their attention to the youth, providing jobs, and holds workshops that empower the community to highlight their economic journey as a whole organization under the same mission for growth.
Rouzan has been with VSEDC for five years and in counting. In 2016, when the announcement of his position as the executive director went public, Rouzan said, “I want to thank the VSEDC Board for allowing me to serve as the organization’s executive director … “he continued, “I do plan to lead this organization in a fashion that will make her proud by creating economic and career opportunities throughout Los Angeles, particularly South L.A.”
Before his leadership at VSEDC, Rouzan has been a Titan for the Los Angeles community. For over three decades, he’s been entrusted with budgets reaching over $4.5 million dollars and has led multiple organizations and infrastructures, that includes the Brotherhood Crusade, the Baldwin Hills Plaza, and the Hawthorne Mall. Rouzan has done work in the city’s economic and workforce development. According to his LinkedIn account, he received his education from the California State University, Dominguez-Hills.
Rouzan has perfected the model of finding the solutions to generational problems within the community. He has chained South Los Angeles to the pillars of success and embodied the soul of the collective mission to prosperity.
Rouzan has been clear and vocal about the change needed in the community, appearing on speaking panels and radio stations, magnifying the voices that cry out in the Vermont-Slauson neighborhoods. In August, Rouzan collaborated with the SoCal Gas Company as they developed the Restaurant Recovery Program, donating $75,000 to Black-owned Restaurants in Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire.
The program was curated by VSEDC, the Restaurant Recovery Program set forth “Black Restaurant Week,” a SoCalGas sponsored directive. Rendering quotes from Behind the Business Blog, Rouzan stated, “Black restaurant owners suffer disproportionately from the ills of this pandemic,” he continued, “This critical infusion of capital allows restaurateurs to make vital upgrades to help stay afloat during these challenging times.”
Rouzan continued, “As our nation faces the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical to support business owners in the communities we serve.” The program came at a time where the food and hospitality sectors were enduring some of the most traumatizing deficits their businesses were seeing.
Being a cornerstone of economic history, Rouzan has a taste for local delicacies, such as Harold and Belle’s, which is a Black-owned business that contributes to the history of economic wealth and opportunity for people of color living in Los Angeles, noted from The University Park Family, a social network for the neighborhoods around USC and Expo Park.
VSEDC executive director Rouzan has a warrior’s heart and holds great loyalty for his local stomping grounds, his name is connected to generating business for South Los Angeles and defining the value of the collective community.