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Originally published July 16, 2010 at 5:56 PM | Page modified July 16, 2010 at 7:55 PM

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Hispanic-owned businesses booming, especially in the South

Hispanic-owned businesses are booming across the United States, particularly in the South. Arkansas, for instance, had a 160 percent increase in Hispanic-owned business, growing from 2,094 businesses in 2002 to 5,457 in 2007, according to a recently released study by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Scripps Howard News Service

WASHINGTON — Hispanic-owned businesses are booming across the United States, particularly in the South.

Arkansas had a 160 percent increase in Hispanic-owned business, growing from 2,094 businesses in 2002 to 5,457 in 2007, according to a recently released study by the U.S. Census Bureau.

"Our Hispanic community has grown significantly,"said Fayetteville, Ark., Chamber of Commerce President Steve Clark. "That diversity is very good for us. We have a Spanish language radio station now, which is something we would not have had five years ago."

Other Southern states also have increases. In 2007, North Carolina had 21,277 Hispanic-owned businesses, a 135 percent increase from 2002, with 9,043 businesses. Nationally, Hispanic-owned businesses increased by 44 percent, compared to an 18 percent increase in all U.S businesses.

"The diversity is very smart for us. If we want to attract new jobs, you have to have a very culturally and diverse community to do that,"Clark said.

North Carolina and Arkansas still have low numbers of Hispanic-owned businesses compared to some other states.

California has the highest number of Hispanic-owned businesses, 566,000.

Florida had the second-highest number of Hispanic-owned businesses, 450,000, followed by Texas, with 447,000.

The boom in business can be attributed to the growth of the Hispanic community in these states. In 2008, 7 percent of North Carolina's population was Hispanic, up from 4.7 percent in 2000, according to the Census.

"We have found one of the biggest reasons people migrate here is education,"said Raul Herrera, vice president of the North Carolina Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "There is an opportunity for a very good education, and it's fairly easy to pay off. It's an opportunity to educate their children and themselves that may not be available in another state."

Although Hispanic and other minority-owned businesses are surpassing the average growth rate, revenue produced by minority businesses is significantly lower than nonminority businesses.

In 2007, average gross receipts for minority-owned firms increased to $179,000 from $167,000 in 2002 but remained lower than non-minority-owned firms, which grossed an average of $490,000, according to the report.

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Minority firms are relatively recent to the game. Also there's a factor of access to capital, which has been an area of frustration for minority-owned firms, said David Hinson, director of the Minority Business Development Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. "Access to contracts has also been challenging."

The largest group of businesses owned by Hispanics, 30 percent, are in construction, repair and maintenance.

However, Cindy Ramos-Davidson, CEO of the El Paso (Texas) Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said other sectors are growing.

"Although many of our new, growing Hispanic business are in the service industry, we are noticing a trend of businesses opening their doors in the medical, transportation and defense arenas, among others," Ramos-Davidson said.

Clark said Arkansas also has a large number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the retail sector, and business in accounting and real estate are growing.

"We expect to see this continue,"Clark said. "We are very excited about it because it is very positive for our community."

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