September 15th through October 15th marks Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States. In Kansas City, my hometown, this is a special time filled with tributes and fiestas as in most communities. But here, there is always something more – celebrations of Hispanic-owned businesses. And, for a great reason!
You see, Kansas City was the second home to Hector V. Barreto, who died in 2004. Barreto, an immigrant to the Kansas City area from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, saved money while working at digging potatoes, in a packing house and as a school custodian so he could open a small restaurant in suburban Independence.
Then, he opened two more restaurants businesses, plus a tile company and a construction firm. To help his fellow Hispanic business men and women, he formed the Kansas City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 1978, the first in the nation…and went on to co-found the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) in 1979. He became its first president and for some time, the USHCC was headquartered in Kansas City before it was moved to Washington, DC. His work extends over generations. Several years ago, his son, Hector V. Barreto, II, served as the Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, and today is president of a business and the U.S. Latino Coalition. He was named to the Minority Business Hall of Fame in May of this year for his work in advancing the emerging minority market’s ability to secure SBA loans, federal contracts and low and not-cost training and counseling.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, which defines Hispanic-owned businesses as those owned 51 percent or more by persons of Hispanic descent, reported that the number of U.S. Hispanic-owned businesses increased by 43.7 percent to 2.3 million between 2002 and 2007. That’s more than twice the national rate of 18 percent. Many economists predict the number of Hispanic owned businesses will double in the coming four years. In 2007, which was the last count, Hispanic-owned businesses comprised 23.6% of all businesses in New Mexico, highest among all states, followed by Florida (22.4%), Texas (20.7%), California (16.5%) and Arizona (10.7%). Wholesale trade, construction and retail trade accounted for more than half of Hispanic-owned business revenue; while nearly one-third of Hispanic-owned businesses operated in the construction, repair and maintenance, and personal and laundry services industries.
The SBA, where I work, is dedicated to fostering continued business development and entrepreneurship in the Hispanic communities as well as other minority communities. We have just formed a strategic alliance with the USHCC, described in SBA Administrator Karen Mills’ blog at www.sba.gov and SBA will be paying special tribute on its Twitter accounts across the nation at #HHMsba. I hope you will read the inspiring Hispanic entrepreneur stories of SBA-assisted businesses on Twitter and in our SBA Facebook accounts, and also read about our new alliance. Join us in celebrating Hispanic businesses during this Hispanic Heritage Month–the Kansas City way!