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US Census Report Shows Rapid Growth for Hispanic-Owned Businesses

A new report from the United States Census Bureau shows that between 1997 and 2002, Hispanic-owned businesses grew nearly three times faster than the national average. VOA's Melinda Smith has more on America's shifting economic landscape.

Based on the most recent data available, the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting that America's 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses earned more than $220 billion in revenue between 1997 and 2002.

Valerie Strang is a survey statistician at the Bureau. She says, "The results of the 2002 Survey of Business Owners show that between 1997 and 2002 Hispanic-owned firms grew by 31 percent - that's three times the national average for all businesses."

Los Angeles, California boasts the largest number of Hispanic-owned firms, with more than 180,000. Greater Miami, Florida was second with about 160,000, and the Houston area, in Texas, finished third with about 62,000. The number of Hispanic workers also continues to grow rapidly.

"By 2050, Hispanics in the labor force will go from accounting for about one in 10 U.S. workers, to one in four," adds Ms. Strang.

Most Hispanic businesses continue to be relatively small in size. Fewer than two percent generated annual revenues in excess of $1 million, and fewer than 2,000 Hispanic-owned firms employed more than 100 workers.

But big companies are growing quickly as well, according to the Census Bureau. "When you look at just those Hispanic-owned firms with 500 employees, the number increased 50 percent from 115 to 183."

Retail and wholesale trade accounted for fully one-third of Hispanic businesses. Another third ran building trades, maintenance and other service-oriented enterprises. U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Michael Barrera says, "So we are very pleased by those statistics because they do show the growth of not only the Hispanic business community, but they are also reflective of the overall Hispanic consumer community, which is a consumer market today worth about $700 billion a year."

The Census report is indicative of the rapid growth of the U.S. Hispanic population, which has moved beyond the Southwest and Florida and is now showing steady growth in such states as Virginia, Maryland, Nevada and Rhode Island.