Hispanic business growth evident


    The number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew dramatically in Kent County between 2002 and 2007, at a clip faster than the explosive national trend of 43.7 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics released last week.

    The bureau’s 2007 Survey of Business Owners showed that of 52,413 businesses in Kent County, 1,034 were Hispanic-owned and brought in $225 million in sales. That’s compared to 697 in 2002, an increase of 49 percent.

    Across the state, Hispanic-owned firms accounted for just 1.3 percent of the total of 817,470 in Michigan in 2007. But Kent County claimed 9.6 percent of Michigan’s 10,763 Hispanic-owned firms.

    In Kent County, 138 Hispanic-owned firms reported having a total of 1,286 workers and an aggregate annual payroll of $38.9 million. The companies were concentrated in retail and manufacturing.

    In 2007, Ottawa County counted 388 Hispanic-owned firms, up from 292 in 2002, a 32.8 percent growth rate. Twenty-nine of them employed 331 people, with an annual payroll of $12.2 million. Sales reported were $76.4 million in 2007.

    Nationally, the Census Bureau reported that the number of Hispanic-owned business grew by 43.7 percent to 2.3 million from 2002 to 2007, more than twice the national rate of 18 percent. Hispanic-owned businesses generated $345.2 billion in sales in 2007.

    Although Hispanic-owned businesses are concentrated in the southwestern U.S., Carlos Sanchez, executive director of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the local community has been active.

    “We’ve grown significantly in those years as well,” Sanchez said. “What happens is that in this community, the entrepreneurs go out into business with a lot less resources. Our individuals are used to starting businesses on a shoestring. Basically they just pull some resources from friends and family, and that’s what they go with.

    “One of the main reasons the entrepreneur goes into business is for the sake of self-employment.”

    Business training and, for recent immigrants, English as a Second Language classes are two needs for the local Hispanic business community, he added.

    The chamber serves 200 members in Kalamazoo, Kent, Ottawa and Van Buren counties, Sanchez said. It is hosting the seventh annual Business Expo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Applause Event Facility, 2728 Birchcrest Drive SE in Grand Rapids. Call 452-3960 for information about renting booth space.

    David Hinson, national director of the Minority Business Development Agency, said that anecdotal evidence reveals the recession has probably shrunk the number of Hispanic-owned businesses since the survey was conducted in 2007.

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