County Boasts Growing List of Hispanic Firms : Entrepreneurship: A rising Latino population creates a greater demand for goods and services, causing managers to sharpen their skills and start their own firms.


William Rivero grew up stamping envelopes in the direct mail-service industry.

Along the way, he realized that U.S. companies do a lot of business by mail: They collect bills by mail, sell products by mail and even send junk.

When he saved enough money, Rivero started his own direct mail service called Mini-Mailers Inc. in 1986 to label, sort, stuff envelopes and mail newsletters, invoice statements and advertisements for such clients as AT&T;, Southern California Edison, Arco and Western Digital Corp.

Rivero's Irvine-based company, which earned nearly $1 million in revenue last year, is one of a growing number of Hispanic-owned businesses in Orange County, which is one of the nation's leading centers for Hispanic businesses.

According to a federal survey scheduled for release today, Los Angeles County led the nation in 1987 in the number of Hispanic-owned companies, with 56,679. San Diego County ranked fifth, with 10,373 companies, followed by Orange County with 9,683. The 1987 figures are the latest available.

Two major factors foster entrepreneurship among Hispanics in Orange County: A rising Hispanic population creates a demand for products and services, and a growing number of Hispanic managers in U.S. service companies who, as they sharpen their management skills, eventually leave to start their own firms.

Alfredo Amezcua, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Orange County, said that despite the growing Hispanic population in the county, he is still surprised at the rapid development of its business community.

"This data establishes once and for all that the Hispanic business community is a bona fide player in Orange County's economy," he said Wednesday.

According to the census survey, the number of Hispanic-owned small businesses jumped 89% in Los Angeles County, 112% in San Diego and 82% in Orange County. The national growth rate was 81%-- from 233,975 in 1982 to 422,373 in 1987.

Sales for Hispanic businesses in Los Angeles were $3.3 billion in 1987, up from $1.7 billion in 1982. In San Diego, sales grew to $559.4 million, from $296.4 million, and in Orange County, to $650.6 million from $305.7 million.

Average receipts for Hispanic-owned businesses in the nation totaled $59,000, compared with $146,000 for all U.S. companies in 1987, the survey shows.

According to a national ranking of leading Hispanic-owned companies in Hispanic Business magazine, Southern California has 17 of the nation's 100 largest Hispanic-owned and operated business. Two on the list are in Orange County: Infotec Development Inc., a Santa Ana-based designer and developer of software systems for the aerospace industry, and Serrot Corp. in Huntington Beach, a company that installs tank and pond linings for the waste-management industry.

Luis Suarez-Villa, associate professor in UC Irvine's social ecology program, said that Hispanic-owned businesses cater mostly to the Latino community.

"The Hispanic population, although generally poor, is creating a demand for services that are specifically tailored to their cultural needs," he said.

Lucia de Garcia, president of an Irvine consulting firm, said she expects that Latino enterprises will continue to increase in number, especially if the North American free-trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, should come to fruition.

De Garcia and Martinez were among a select group of Latino business leaders who had breakfast with President Bush at the White House last week to discuss how they can work with Washington officials to bring the free-trade agreement to reality.

"There's going to be a tremendous explosion of economic activity between the United States and Mexico once the free-trade agreement is passed," De Garcia said Wednesday.

Hispanics Get Down to Business U.S. Census Bureau figures sketch a portrait of Hispanic business ownership in the Southland. Los Angeles County ranked No. 1 nationwide in terms of the number of Hispanic-owned firms. Orange County ranked sixth nationally. The data, gathered in 1987, will be released today. LOS ANGELES 56,679 firms $3.3 billion sales Rank: No. 1 ORANGE 9,683 firms $650.6 million sales Rank: No. 6 SAN BERNARDINO 5,515 firms $330 million sales Rank: No. 12 VENTURA 3,297 firms $216.8 million sales Rank: No. 24 RIVERSIDE 4,680 firms $246.5 million sales Rank: No. 14 SAN DIEGO 10,373 firms $559.4 million sales Rank: No. 5 Percentage of Hispanic Firms Orange County has the Southland's lowest concentration of Hispanic-owned firms, measured as a percentage of the total number of firms. Los Angeles: 26.2% San Bernardino: 23.8% Riverside: 23.3% Ventura: 23.0% San Diego: 16.8% Orange: 15.2% Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Ownership by Type of Business The great majority of firms owned by Hispanics in Orange County are concentrated in the service industry, followed by retail trade and construction. Services: 4,534 Retail Trade: 1,449 Construction: 1,016 Industries not classified: 694 Finance, insurance and real estate: 645 Agricultural services, forestry, fishing and mining: 408 Manufacturing: 368 Transportation and public utilities: 350 Wholesale trade: 219 Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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