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Latino-owned businesses booming in Utah

5-year span saw boom in Latino company growth

Published: Wednesday, July 14 2010 12:33 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Do you notice more grocery stores owned by Hispanics that cater to Hispanics? Or car dealerships? Or restaurants?

The Census Bureau has noticed them, too, and says the growth rate for such businesses in Utah is among the fastest in the nation.

It reported Tuesday that the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in Utah jumped by 78 percent between 2002 and 2007 — and revenues rocketed up by almost 138 percent.

Businesses owned by whites in Utah didn't do poorly, either. In fact, they had the second-fastest growth in the nation in that five-year period before the recession hit.

That's according to a new Census report on estimates of business ownership by race, ethnicity and gender for the five-year period.

In 2002, it estimated that Hispanics owned 5,177 businesses in Utah. Five years later, it estimated that they owned 9,221.

Hispanics still owned only about 3.7 percent of all businesses in Utah — while they make up 11.6 percent of the population, the Census Bureau estimated.

That 78.1 percent growth for Hispanic-owned businesses in Utah was eighth-fastest among the states.

Revenue grew even faster than the number of Hispanic-owned businesses, from $555 million to $1.32 billion. That growth of 137.5 percent ranked seventh in the nation.

University of Utah research economist Pam Perlich said the growth in Hispanic-owned businesses coincides with big growth in the state's Hispanic population.

The Census estimates that Utah's Hispanic population grew by 33 percent between 2002 and 2007 — from 229,743 to 306,514. That was three times faster than Utah's overall growth rate in that period of 13.2 percent.

"It's just a growing market, period," she said.

Another possible reason for growth of Hispanic businesses, she said, is that "there may be a cultural demand for some products or services that were not here before a new culture comes. So it is common for new businesses to emerge to fit those needs."

Finally, Perlich said it is common for new immigrants, who may have difficulty finding a job for wages, to create their own businesses to survive.

"There often is a lot of creativity with new businesses among new cultures," she said.

Perlich noted that the period studied was before the recession began, when Utah enjoyed a building boom. She noted that a high number of Hispanics work in the construction industry, and many of them own small businesses or are self-employed.

The study showed that Hispanics accounted for most of the growth among minority-owned businesses in Utah in that period. They accounted for about two-thirds of the growth in the number of businesses and about half of the increase in revenues.

The report said that in the same period, Utah had a 26 percent growth in the number of businesses owned by whites — from 180,426 to 227,322. That growth ranked second in the nation.

Estimated revenue for white-owned businesses also grew by 57 percent in that time, from $61.7 billion to $96.6 billion. That increase also ranked second in the nation.

Whites owned 92 percent of all businesses in Utah between 2002 and 2007, according to Census estimates.

Utah's economy, by most measures, was among the hottest in the nation during that period before the recession.

e-mail: lee@desnews.com

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