Expanding The Power of U.S. Latinos

2016 News & Articles

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  • 06/08/2016 10:15 AM | TLC Team (Administrator)

    What an interesting time to be Hispanic in the U.S. While I certainly believe that the best is yet to come for Latinos in this country, I’m candidly not always sure whether we are living in the best of times, or the worst of times, for people with names like mine.

    On the one hand, we can be proud to hail from the same group as Salma Hayek, Sonia Sotomayor, Oscar de la Renta, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sammy Sosa, Oscar Muñoz, Oscar de la Hoya, Marco Rubio and so many more whose names are synonymous with success in the world of art, government, business, sports and more.

    Being a Latino also means being part of the demographic group that everyone is talking about, watching and marketing to. And no wonder. We are economically powerful, and that power is growing. There are more than four million Hispanic-owned businesses in America, with more than $660 billion in combined annual revenue. Latinos are expected to contribute over $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy, overall, by 2020. Our purchasing power alone is around $1.5 billion.

    And of course, every candidate for office is hoping to attract a critical percentage of our votes. This provides an outstanding opportunity for Latinos to be more vocal about what matters to us (hint: it’s not immigration so much as it is the economy, education and health care).

    On the other hand, the issue of illegal immigration, heated up by election-year rhetoric, has caused our community to be maligned. A survey by the Latino Donor Collaborative recently found that most non-Hispanic, white Americans with a moderate view of the Latino community do not believe that Latinos share their American values. This research also found a perception that nearly half of us are undocumented immigrants (in spite of the fact that only 16 percent of us are, according to the Pew Research Center).

    While misguided perceptions like this can be painful, some realities are far more so:

    According to the U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee, almost 30 percent of Latino children live in a food-insecure household, and the median income of Hispanic households is $42,500 – about $18,000 less than the median income of non-Hispanic white households. We are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-Latino white Americans and lag behind non-Latino white in education, income and wealth.

    The one unambiguous beacon of hope among all of this information is Hispanic American’s entrepreneurial streak. I’m especially proud of the fact that Hispanic-owned businesses are growing at 15 times the national growth rate, and that Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely than the general population to become entrepreneurs. That’s a big deal for Latinos and for all Americans, because our nation is in dire need of more business creation, with business dynamism in a state of dangerous decline since 2008.

    The propensity to start and grow a business may, in some cases, be related to Latino’s immigrant roots. For example, small-business ownership has always been a way of life in my family. My father, an immigrant from Mexico, started his American Dream in jobs that included janitor, but, like many immigrants, business ownership was always his goal. It became the vehicle through which he improved his own life, the lives of his family, and of the people he employed.

    Having watched my father start and run businesses made me more likely to eventually do so myself. And I hope I am passing this entrepreneurial example on to my children.

    Regardless of the “why” behind Latino’s inclination toward entrepreneurship, all who want the best for our community would do well to celebrate, foster and encourage it.

    At a meeting here in Washington, D.C. this week, members of The Latino Coalition will gather to talk about the opportunities and challenges of business ownership. Members of Congress will have an opportunity to hear, first hand, what is on the mind of leading members of the Latino business community.

    Elected officials can expect to be inspired by our success, but also to hear our unvarnished perspective on the environment our government is creating.

    Entrepreneurs today are discouraged by a government that doesn’t appear to understand us. Thanks to high individual taxes rates and health care costs, and a never-ending flow of one-size-fits-all regulations, the small-business community (Hispanic or otherwise) view Washington, D.C as an opponent, not an advocate.

    Income and poverty statistics can be turned around by the power of business ownership – my father’s story proves that fact. Improving the environment for small business is essential if we are to turn the Latino community into an unambiguous American success story. The best American leaders will know and speak to this truth. In turn, they will be rewarded with far more than Latino votes – they will actually play a role in Latinos, and America’s, economic recovery and future success.

    Barreto is the Chairman of The Latino Coalition and the former U.S. Small Business Administrator.

    Cited: The Hill

  • 03/09/2016 6:31 PM | TLC Team (Administrator)

    The Candidates’ Missing Economic Message

    Focusing on small businesses could be a big vote-getter, with Hispanics especially.

    March 10, 2016

    By: Hector Barreto

    The economic engine of America is still its 27 million small businesses. Why aren’t any of the presidential candidates tapping into the powerful message of economic opportunity that small business offers?

    For candidates struggling to attract Hispanic votes, small business could be a particularly effective and optimistic subject. It would also be a reprieve from the often divisive rhetoric about immigration-an issue that, right now, isn’t even breaking into the top five issues of importance to Hispanic voters.

    According to a Univision poll, more than half of Hispanic voters consider the economy and jobs as the No. 1 issue of importance. A Jan. 8 Bureau of Labor Statistics report said the unemployment rate among Hispanics is higher than the national average, at 6.3%. One in four Hispanics have been without work for 27 weeks or more.

    wsj articlePhoto: Getty Images/ Ikon Images

    Like most Americans, Hispanics understand and appreciate the economic opportunity that small business offers, both to entrepreneurs themselves and to their employees. Small businesses traditionally create two-thirds of the net new jobs in this country, an important fact for any group of voters who are worried about jobs.

    All this is missing from the presidential race. Why aren’t candidates competing to be the best small business advocate? And why aren’t any of them addressing the disturbing fact that fewer people want to start businesses than ever before?

    Business startups in this country used to outpace business closures by about 100,000 businesses a year. Starting in 2008 the opposite became true: The number of businesses opening each year plummeted, and business closures now outpace business openings.

    No one has proven the cause of this decline. But business owners I have talked to repeatedly raised one issue: The government is failing to create an environment where entrepreneurs want to take a risk.

    When I served in government, we believed that it was not our responsibility to create businesses and jobs, but instead to create an environment to foster entrepreneurship. As Ronald Reagan used to quip, the only difference between a small business and a big business was, essentially, government’s role: If government would get out of the way, a small business could become a big business.

    Too little attention has been paid this presidential year to the crucial role that new businesses play in getting the economy, and the number of new jobs, to grow faster.

    This missing small business message is especially puzzling to many Hispanic Americans who have watched immigrant parents realize their American dreams through business ownership. Being an entrepreneur-in a country where entrepreneurs have opportunities unlike any other-meant that my Mexican immigrant father, Hector V. Barreto Sr., was able to rise from being a farmworker, railroad worker and meatpacking-plant worker, to running multiple businesses, founding the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and advising presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

    My father’s story is inspiring, but not unique. The opportunity to start, own and run one’s own business-and thus to liberate and define yourself-has inspired generations of new Americans to come to the U.S. and make a better life for themselves and their families. Yet politicians today spend more time with big business leaders than with small business owners like my father.

    My message to all presidential candidates: Listen to small business. Listen to entrepreneurs, and to those in economically challenged populations who hope to become business owners. They’ll be listening to you, and they’ll be deciding whether you earn their vote.

    – Mr. Barreto is Chairman of The Latino Coalition and was Administrator of the Small Business Administration, 2001-2008.

    Cited From: The Wall Street Journal

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