California Leads U.S. as Home to Latino Firms : Minorities: Five hundred companies were ranked by Hispanic Business. Headquarters of 131 are here, with Florida in the No. 2 spot.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

California has regained its traditional distinction as leading home to the nation's largest Latino firms after having yielded the title briefly to Florida, according to a new ranking published in the June issue of Hispanic Business.

In climbing back into first place on the list of 500 largest Latino firms, California added 10 entries to the 121 firms based in the state last year. Florida lost four, falling to 112. Texas ranked third with 78, followed by New York with 31.

But Hispanic Business' editor and publisher, Jesus Chavarria, said the one-year change in leadership probably was due more to a statistical "blip" than to economics. Only five of the 500 firms ranked this year are publicly owned and thus required to file financial reports, he pointed out. That makes compiling data dependent on the willingness of the companies.

"Florida firms tend to be more inclined to seek public recognition and are therefore more responsive," Chavarria said in an interview. "California firms seem to be more conservative that way."

To qualify for ranking, a firm must be headquartered in the United States and be at least 51% owned by U.S. Latinos.

Florida-based companies continued to lead in total revenue, with $2.5 billion in 1989, compared to $1.6 billion for the California companies on the list. Florida's total was buoyed by the $500 million in sales generated last year by Miami's Bacardi Imports, the largest firm listed.

More significantly, Chavarria said, sales in both states and in the nation as a whole remained flat, reflecting a generally sluggish economy--especially in Florida and Texas. Revenue for all 500 companies barely increased to $8.35 billion from $8.30 billion in 1988 and was far below the 1986 peak of $10 billion.

Florida's Latino firms tend to be older and larger than those in California. Seventeen of the 50 largest firms are based in Florida, with three in the top 10. Only 10 California firms placed in the top 50, and none was in the top 10. The highest-ranking California firm was Lloyd A. Wise Cos., a chain of Oakland auto dealerships that was listed as No. 16. Rosendin Electric of San Jose was No. 23, and Telacu, an East Los Angeles holding company of community-based enterprises, was No. 28.

Chavarria said the ranking also reconfirmed the broad diversity of Latino-owned enterprises. For example, the year's biggest sales gain was recorded by a Los Angeles company, JCI Environmental Services, which specializes in hauling hazardous wastes and cleaning up contaminated sites. Its sales increased by more than 113%--from $6.9 million in 1988 to $14.7 million--boosting its ranking from 257 to 124.

"We've been working with the environment for years," Julian Carrasco, president of the 18-year-old firm, told the magazine, "and now we are finally in just the right place at exactly the right time."

CALIFORNIA'S LARGEST LATINO-OWNED FIRMS

Sales U.S. Company/city Business (millions) rank Lloyd A. Wise Cos., Oakland auto dealers $80.9 16 Rosendin Electric, San Jose electrical contractor 78.0 23 Telacu, Los Angeles holding company 60.0 28 Ruiz Food Products, Tulare food products 56.8 29 Infotec Development, high-tech engineering 53.1 32 Santa Ana La Reina Cos., Los Angeles food products 48.0 38 Ramos Oil Co.,West distributor 46.0 39 Sacramento Angel Echevarria Co., Los flotation mattresses 39.0 44 Angeles Cacique, City of Industry cheeses/meats 38.8 45 Pacifica Services, Pasadena civil engineering 35.0 50

Source: Hispanic Business magazine

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