Region gets a census surprise
The number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the Capital Region fell more than 9 percent from 1997 to 2002, even while it surged 31 percent nationally, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released Tuesday.

Local business officials expressed surprise at the findings.

"We're seeing an increase in their interest in owning and operating their own business," said Lorraine Wynne, executive director of the Albany Center for Economic Success, which assists minority and low-income entrepreneurs in launching a business.

In the Capital Region, the 888 Hispanic-owned firms had sales totaling $90 million in 2002. That's down from 978 firms with $126 million in sales five years earlier.

Both sets of figures included Montgomery County, which is no longer part of the local metropolitan statistical area.

The Census Bureau conducts this and other economic surveys every five years.

Both the Capital Region and the nation had a drop in the number of firms with paid employees. The growth was entirely among one-person enterprises.

In the Capital Region, while the number of companies with paid employees fell by more than half, to 210 from 453, one-person enterprises climbed to 678 from 525.

"It's not as bleak a picture as one might fear," said Roger Green, an information specialist at the New York State Small Business Development Center at the University at Albany, which provides advice to entrepreneurs in a 12-county region. He pointed out that the multi-employee Hispanic-owned businesses employed more people, on average, in 2002 than in 1997.

"It looks like the businesses that survived were getting healthier," Green said.

One long-time Hispanic business owner said the number of Hispanics has grown in the Capital Region over the years.

"When I first came to Albany in 1968, there were two Gomezes in the phone book," said Joseph Gomez, majority owner of Gomez Electrical Contractors Inc. "I was one of them."

Gomez was named the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce business person of the year in 2002.

Jeffrey Corcoran, executive director of the Schenectady County Community Business Center, which offers programs to startups and would-be entrepreneurs, said only a few Hispanic businesses have sought his organization's assistance.

And Rocky Ferraro, executive director of the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, which analyzes data and trends in a four-county area, said the relatively small sample size raised questions about how accurate the figures might be at the local level.

Guillermo Meneses, a spokesman for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the growth in one-person enterprises wasn't surprising.

"A lot of these one-person small businesses have great family strength and support," he said. Spouses, children and members of the extended family all may help in the business.

"We need to look at the long-term trajectory of how businesses go from one or two people" to multi-employee firms, he added.

Newer Story Return To List Older Story