Monday, June 17, 2024

At Latino business summit, business owners discuss their priorities

Even though Latino-owned businesses are a fast-growing sector of the U.S. economy, contributing more than $700 billion annually, ongoing obstacles include access to capital and reliable lenders.

Latino business owners and entrepreneurs who gathered in the nation’s capital for a business legislative summit sought answers on those issues as well as reassurances that trade at the U.S.-Mexico border will continue. “Top of mind for me is keeping the border open,” said Lea Márquez Peterson, owner of a public affairs firm and past president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Arizona.

“Trade and tourism drive the Arizona economy; we have more than 110,000 jobs that rely on trade with Mexico,” she said. Márquez Peterson, a former Republican congressional candidate who lives an hour from the border, was among several Latino entrepreneurs at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 2019 Legislative Summit.

At the summit on Wednesday, the Latina business owner said she was heartened to hear firsthand from legislators on both sides of the political aisle against a border closure. President Trump said yesterday he was giving Mexico “a one-year warning” to deter migrants on their borders.

An annual study of Latino businesses by the Stanford University Graduate School of Business finds that a greater number of Latino-owned businesses take on more personal financial risk compared to businesses owned by white, Asian Americans, and African Americans. The study also revealed that a lower percentage of these Latino firms can secure bank loans from traditional sources compared to other groups.

This is exacerbated, says Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), chair of the House Small Business Committee, by a White House budget proposal that seeks deep cuts in several key programs including loans and technical assistance and a slashing of the budget for the agency that oversees minority business development. The 2020 budget proposal also seeks to increase fees for some programs that assist small businesses.

Velázquez said she would hold the administration’s feet to the fire on ensuring that Latino small businesses are not adversely affected by budget cuts. “I’ll be the one in charge of setting up a legislative agenda in the Small Business Committee and an important part of that agenda is how we can provide tools for Latino (and other minority) businesses,” she told NBC News.

“The fact of the matter is that our economy is changing, that the face of the business sector is changing; so what we want is to provide a level playing field for our businesses to be able to succeed and grow.”