- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2005

Hispanic businesses today are set to receive their first Spanish-language guide on how to open and run a business in the District of Columbia.

This year, the D.C. Marketing Center, which is publishing its second “Doing Business in Washington, D.C.,” decided to publish the free guide in Spanish as well as English.

“Between last year and this year, we saw the largest increase of Latinos in this community,” said Raguel Broy, spokeswoman for the D.C. Marketing Center, a nonprofit organization that tries to attract businesses to the city. “With them becoming a fast-growing community, it’s important that they have the resources they want.”

Hispanics represent about 10 percent of the District’s population and are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the Washington area, according to the D.C. Office on Latino Affairs.

They also own more than 10,000 businesses, many concentrated in the restaurant, cleaning and construction industries, according to the Ibero American Chamber of Commerce, a trade group for Washington’s Hispanic businesses, which translated the guide into Spanish.

The guide is part of a larger campaign by the D.C. Marketing Center to serve the growing Hispanic business community.

The 71-page booklet is supposed to help business owners such as Walter Monge, who little more than one year ago was struggling with the paperwork to start his tortilla manufacturing and janitorial businesses.

“You have to write the bylaws and all those things,” said the El Salvadoran immigrant. “I didn’t know what bylaws mean.”

Spanish translation and technical assistance from the Ibero American Chamber of Commerce helped him through the regulatory hurdles that resulted in M&C; Services becoming a seven-employee business in Southeast last year.

The booklet is supposed to be a step-by-step guide to business registration, financing, taxes, insurance and winning government contracts.

“A lot of people from my country lack fluency in the language,” Mr. Monge said. “A lot of times, they have to pay a lot of money to lawyers or accountants to do everything for them.”

He said a Spanish-language guide could help business owners learn the jargon and technicalities of business in a second language so they can do the paperwork themselves.

“I can say this is not going to be our last initiative to get business information to the Latino community,” Mrs. Broy said.

Other planned efforts include translating more press releases and informational brochures into Spanish.

In addition to the language barrier, immigrant businessmen often struggle with different regulatory guidelines than they would find in Latin American countries, said Catalina Ford, business development specialist for the chamber.

“There are a lot more industries that are regulated by the government and they don’t know it,” Mrs. Ford said.

Many of the businesses must fill out forms and pay taxes or fees that would not be required in Latin America, she said.

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