- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2001

Businesses owned by minorities grew four times faster than U.S. businesses overall in the 1990s, but continued to generate less revenue than the norm, the Commerce Department said yesterday.

The number of minority-owned businesses grew by 700,000, or 30 percent, to 2.8 million from 1992 to 1997, according to the department's Census Bureau. U.S. businesses as whole grew by 7 percent in that same time.

Maryland and Virginia were among the top 10 states when it came to number of minority-owned businesses.

Meanwhile, receipts of minority-owned business rose 60 percent, compared with a 40 percent increase for all U.S. companies over the same period. But in some sectors, revenues of minority-owned businesses were a fraction of those seen by all U.S. companies, and there were visible gaps even between minority groups.

The report "clearly indicates minority businesses are growing at a faster rate than U.S. businesses as a whole," said Ronald Langston, director of the Commerce Department's Minority Business Development Agency.

Advocates for minority business said they were pleased with the report's findings.

"I am certainly encouraged to see an increase in the number of businesses and revenue," said Ramon Rodriguez, chief operating officer of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "The Hispanic person has a very entrepreneurial mind."

Hispanics accounted for about 40 percent of all minority-owned businesses nationwide. Black-owned businesses accounted for 27 percent while Asians represented 30 percent. The biggest growth came from American Indians and Alaskan natives, who saw their businesses grow more than 85 percent during the year.

Mr. Rodriguez said he was "astonished" by the increase, and that it was a sign of things to come for other minority business communities.

"I think that what we are going to see are some very dramatic increases," he said.

Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, said his organization is always pleased with any growth.

"It's good. It's bigger. It's growing," he said. "The African-American community is starting to understand entrepreneurship finally."

Mr. Alford said the growth figures were encouraging, but that it appeared minority-owned businesses in some larger states out West including California were losing market share.

"I find that very alarming and I'm concerned," he said.

The Census Report indicated that the number of minority-owned businesses in California actually rose about 4 percent to 28.7 percent of the state's businesses. But, black-owned firms, which in 1992 made up 12.7 percent of minority-owned businesses in the state, made up just 10.7 percent in 1997.

Officials in Maryland, where more than one-fifth of businesses are minority-owned, said they were pleased with what the report revealed.

"The diversity of the population and the result of a good educational system … has spawned a sense of entrepreneurship," said Kathleen Snyder, president of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. "Diversity in the business community is a strength."

While the report showed growth in all areas of minority business, it also revealed some gaps in revenue of these businesses.

For instance, all U.S. manufacturers, regardless of the race and ethnicity of the owner, generated an average of $5.8 million in receipts in 1997. But manufacturing companies owned by a minority generated just under $1 million in receipts.

The report indicated gaps between minority groups as well. Blacks represented 27 percent of all minority-owned businesses, but those businesses brought in just 12 percent of the revenue. Asians, meanwhile, had 30 percent of the minority-owned businesses and accounted for more than 50 percent of the revenue.

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