Latino Businesses Surge in Southland


The number of Latino-owned businesses in Orange County has doubled since 1992 and grew almost as rapidly across Southern California, according to a study to be released Monday by the Latin Business Assn. and UCLA’s Center for the Study of Latino Health.

The number of such businesses jumped in Orange County from 19,270 in 1992 to 40,483 this year.

“It’s called the American dream,” said Cuban-born Rene Moya, who started Moya’s Bakery in Santa Ana 10 years ago. “We have become more educated, more sophisticated. We’re not just migrant fieldworkers.”

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


Cecilia Portillo, a Latino business owner in Santa Ana, said the rise in entrepreneurship is not merely the result of population increases.

“They’re bettering their life and they want their children to follow in their footsteps,” said Portillo, owner of Latino Jewelers.

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.


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.”

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 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.