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Latino Businesses Surge in Southland

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Latino-owned businesses in the Southland have nearly doubled in number since 1992, growing most rapidly in the Inland Empire, according to a study by the Latin Business Assn. and UCLA’s Center for the Study of Latino Health.

The report makes a projection--based on earlier data--that there are 307,070 Latino-owned businesses in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, up from the 154,891 counted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1992.

The figure is consistent with stunning growth previously noted by the agency. From 1987 to 1992, Latino-owned businesses in the five-county area nearly doubled, from 79,854 to 154,891, the census figures showed.

The study was commissioned by the Los Angeles-based business association, which seeks to underscore the growing importance of Latino-owned firms to the health of the region’s economy. California boasts more Latino-owned enterprises than any other state.

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David Hayes-Bautista, director of the UCLA center, and center analyst Paul Hsu based their projections on U.S. census surveys conducted over two decades, most recently in 1992.

Although growth in the Latino population has been widely noted, the study points out that Latino rates of entrepreneurship vastly outpace it. From 1970 to 1990, the Latino population in California grew 253%, from about 2.1 million to about 7.6 million. However, from 1972 to 1992, the number of Latino-owned businesses grew 787%--three times as fast.

“We think that’s a great opportunity--for businesses, for the economy, for employment,” Hsu said. “It is really quite dramatic.”

The projections were not adjusted for the economic downturn and subsequent recovery, but Hsu said they were based in part on the trend from 1987 to 1992, which showed rapid growth in the number of Latino-owned firms despite the already deep recession.

The projections show the greatest number of businesses in the service industry, followed by construction and retail. Transportation and public utilities; finance, insurance and real estate; and manufacturing were also well represented.

Although Los Angeles County had by far the greatest number of Latino-owned firms, estimated at 208,408, the region’s greatest growth since 1992 was in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, where the numbers of businesses rose 124% and 125%, respectively.

The study “shows the businesses across the board,” said Latin Business Assn. Chairman Hector Barreto. “When people ask, ‘Where is the Latino area?’ the answer is: everywhere.”

Barreto said the study “debunks the myth of ‘All of those Latino businesses are just restaurants or landscaping firms.’ They are in a lot of segments.”

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According to the study, from 1992 to this year the number of Latino-owned businesses jumped in Los Angeles County from 109,104 to 208,408, in Orange County from 19,270 to 40,483, in Riverside County from 10,422 to 23,348, in San Bernardino County from 10,958 to 24,670, and in Ventura County from 5,137 to 10,161.

Estimates of the firms’ total revenues more than doubled from 1992 levels, from $11.1 billion to $25.1 billion, and the estimated number of employees grew from 98,884 to 138,685, indicating a maturing of these businesses.

John Rooney, executive director of the Valley Economic Development Center, said the trend is undeniable. “Latin businesses are a mainstay economic driver in Los Angeles,” he said.

“We’re seeing more Latino businesses that are in the early stages of growth, or they’ve come out of the recession and the earthquake and they’re really starting to grow, hire employees, get capital equipment and go to the next level,” he said. “They’re going to be a major source of employment.”

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