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Social Enterprise Complex

East Austin Social Enterprise Complex

A one-of-a-kind community center focused on getting people back to work is opening its doors in East Austin. The new development is part of the East Austin Children’s Promise, a collective effort of youth, parents and organizations to transform Govalle/Johnston Terrace through education and employment support. Southwest Key will hold the grand opening of the new Social Enterprise Complex—made possible by an investment from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the City of Austin, the Meadows Foundation and other private donors—on Saturday, April 28 followed by free Cinco de Mayo performances and family activities.

Located at the nonprofit’s El Centro de Familia campus in the Govalle/Johnston Terrace neighborhood, the 14,000-square-foot complex will create at least 160 jobs in 5 years, serve thousands annually and house some of Austin’s most cutting-edge workforce programs, including nonprofit-run businesses known as “social enterprises.” So called because they are solely owned by the nonprofit and designed with a double bottom line: to create jobs right in the heart of East Austin that put East Austin residents back to work, and raise funds to support Southwest Key’s nonprofit mission. As part of the initiative, Southwest Key has established a number of small businesses, including The Blooming Florist, Southwest Key Green Energy & Construction, Southwest Key Maintenance, Southwest Key Workforce Development and Café del Sol. Many of the enterprises will be housed at the new complex.

Other centerpiece programs housed at the complex are Job-Readiness Coaching and Life Skills Training, funded by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation.

“We partner with many local organizations such as ACC, MexNet, Workers Defense Project, and Workforce Solutions to provide resources for adults on the Eastside, such as ESL, computer literacy and small business startup,” explains Career Services Coordinator Daniel Hinojosa. “I sit down with job seekers to assess their barriers to employment and their goals. We develop a Personal Career Plan so I can connect them with the right training and employers and generally commit as much time as possible to help them find a job.”

Bessie Castro, who is currently taking a GED class at the facility, was introduced to Southwest Key after attending a Children’s Promise learning fair with her kids. “I was just walking around and found a flyer about the program and told myself: This is it. I have to make the decision to move forward with my life for my kids.” She meets regularly with Mr. Hinojosa before class. “This program has helped me so much. I have an awesome counselor and teacher who both believe in me and know that I can achieve my goals. Mr. Hinojosa has helped me through the job readiness program to build my resume, get ready for interviews, and look for jobs, and I thank him for that.”

The Social Enterprise Complex has programs and classes open to the public on a walk-in basis day and night Mondays through Saturdays, and offers workforce training classes to help unemployed and underemployed workers develop skills needed for the 21st century work force. Most adult classes offer free on-site childcare for participants during class hours.

The sustainably designed complex is soon to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified and sports unique features for workers and students, including a massage-chair equipped meditation and creativity area, a community board room with a rooftop balcony overlooking the entire campus, and a steep indoor slide which allows for easy access between floors.

“The slide connects our community meeting space on the top floor with our other classrooms beneath,” says Dr. Juan Sanchez, founder and CEO of Southwest Key who envisioned the Social Enterprise Complex.

“Our staff and students work so hard,” explains Sanchez. “It’s nice to take a break and offer them a little fun between meetings. After sitting through a parenting seminar or a job coaching session, you can pop into the escape hatch and bring out your inner child. ”

This article also appears in the April 2012 issue of TODO Austin


Social Enterprise Complex Brochure (pdf)

Southwest Key prepares for growth, building $3.6M Social Enterprise Complex (Austin Business Journal)

New Social Enterprise Complex Expected To Bring 100 Jobs To East Austin (press release pdf)

News coverage of Social Enterprise Complex Groundbreaking Event on May 1, 2010

Austin Chronicle Article and Video, Fox 7, News 8