Latino-Owned Businesses in US Still Face Inequalities, Limited Access to Capital

The US has reached a point where there’s an increasing understanding of the Latino market and the Latino entrepreneurial spirit, according to the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program

A customer enters a store with a "Welcome" sign in Spanish near the US-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas.
November 15, 2022 | 01:30 PM

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Bloomberg Línea — According to a report by the Latino Donor Collective (LDC) and Wells Fargo, Latinos contributed $2.8 trillion dollars in 2020 to the US economy, turning this community into the fifth largest in the world were they an independent country. That figure is the most representative of the Latino community’s weight in the US economy.

“That figure is not small and the number is just going to grow,” said Gaddi Vásquez, chair of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program (AILAS), and who is leading a conference on the economic mobility of Latino and Hispanic communities in the US.

Vásquez, a former executive at Edison International and a former US ambassador to UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture, told Bloomberg Línea that the data he has seen on the economic and consumer output from the 62 million Latinos living in the country is “coming out at a very fast pace, at a rhythm I hadn’t seen in my lifetime.”

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He specifically refers to the evolution of small businesses created and operated by Latinos who are showing a growing ability to scale up their companies by procuring capital from new sources, either from private entities or the public sector.

“I have to say that the data is compelling,” Vásquez said. “The sheer volume of the Latino consumer market and the growth of the Latino population are catching the attention of investors and entities that inject capital into growing Latino businesses.”

In fact, as the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), which is made up of legislators from the Democratic Party, said in a report, the last decade has seen a huge increase of Latinos as business owners in the country: “The number of Hispanic business owners increased 34% compared to an increase of just 1% among non-Hispanic business owners,” the committee said.

At the end of 2021, Latino and Hispanic entrepreneurs owned at least 300,000 firms employing some three million workers, the report said. However, the JEC warns: “Limited access to capital and structural inequalities place Hispanic-owned, small businesses in a precarious position.”

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Given that, Vásquez says, “when it comes to small businesses, the access to capital that can provide investment and give the tools and the economic injection of dollars to help small Latino entrepreneurs scale up their businesses is a continuing challenge.”

However, the AILS chair says the data suggest the US has reached “a turning point where there’s an increasing understanding of the market and the Latino market and the Latino community as it relates to entrepreneurship.”

Vásquez sees a vantage point that demographics and diversity offer: the Latino community is vibrant and young and it’s reaching a growing voice in government halls and in business.

“With this, hopefully we’ll have a greater understanding of what the Latino community can bring to a competitive world (...) data and statistics clearly point to a positioning for the Latino community that should, be, can be, and will be, a strong voice in the consumer market, in the investment market and other places as we evolve,” Vásquez said.