Opinion: Celebrating the tri-county region’s Latino business community
By Kristina Alameda
Although Hispanic Heritage Month is winding down, it gave us a unified opportunity to celebrate the richness and diversity of the Hispanic-Latino community and recognize our collective path forward to drive social and economic progress in the Tri-Counties. This year in particular, we recognize the resilience of small business owners impacted by a global health crisis who continue to serve our community.
Over the last decade, recent census data for the tri-county area shows the Hispanic-Latino population in Santa Barbara County has increased by 15.9%, in San Luis Obispo County by 21.4%, and by 10.2% in Ventura County. This further shows that this population segment plays an integral part of our business community, and there is no doubt Hispanic-Latino business owners contribute to the success of the tri-county area.
This growth in the region reflects the legacy and success that Hispanics have contributed to and experienced across California. A recent joint study by California Lutheran University and UCLA, commissioned and funded by Bank of America, found that California’s Hispanic GDP grew to $706.6 billion in 2018 — the latest data available — and is poised to continue growing into 2022 and beyond.
In fact, from 2010-18, California’s Latino labor force grew nearly seven times as quickly as the non-Latino labor force. The $706.6 billion in economic activity in California was bigger than the entire economic output of Ohio.
Nationally, this Hispanic-Latino GDP is breathtaking, with the total economic output of Latinos across the United States at $2.6 trillion. Today, Latinos account for nearly 80% of all net new businesses created, according to L’Atitude.
However, the past year was challenging for nearly every Hispanic entrepreneur, according to our recently released 2021 Hispanic Business Owner Spotlight. For example, 84% of respondents said they have changed, or plan to change, their approach to employee recruitment and retention as a result of the pandemic, but they also believe that strong talent contributes to their business success.
The Bank of America research also revealed that the Hispanic-Latino business outlook is strong, with 81% of Hispanic-Latino business owners expecting their revenue to increase over the next year, compared to 59% of non-Hispanic-Latino business owners — a significant difference in outlook. Their economic optimism and hiring plans also show sharp increases since last fall.
The survey also reconfirms that community values are strong among Hispanic business owners, noting an increase in family and community support over the past 12 months, and 60% have volunteered to help their local communities recover and thrive.
Our company, Bank of America, serves 12 million Hispanic-Latino clients, 1 million of whom are also business owners working to make a lasting positive impact on their communities.
We strive to serve this important segment by providing digital Spanish-language resources, hiring bilingual client-facing teams and investing in research like our annual Hispanic Business Owner Spotlight to better understand the unique experiences of these entrepreneurs.
We also invest in programs and partners, such as the Latino Business Action Network, which helps scale up minority-owned businesses, provides mentorship and offers growth opportunities. To help Hispanic-Latino and other underrepresented entrepreneurs have greater access to capital, Bank of America has provided $350 million in capital to minority-focused funds like Vamos Ventures and L’Attitude Ventures, which then invest growth capital into minority-led businesses.
Supporting Hispanic-Latino businesses not only helps nurture the rich diversity of our community, but more importantly, it helps strengthen our local economy as these businesses continue to grow, creating job opportunities and business owners give back to our community.
Ensuring long-term success for Hispanic entrepreneurs in the tri-county region continues to be a priority for Bank of America this Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond.
• Kristina Alameda is Bank of America’s senior vice president for small business banking in the Tri-Counties.