Few have been hit as hard, economically, as Hispanic small businesses according to a recent Latino Business Summit held by Senate Democrats.
“Despite Hispanic small businesses growing at a rate of 3 to 1 compared to the rest of the population, Hispanic business opportunities are contracting and Hispanic business hiring is decreasing faster than the population,” said Javier Palomarez, President and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chair of the Democratic Hispanic Task Force, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), and at least ten other Senate Democrats provided a strong presence at the event, each looking to boost their image in battleground states with sizable Latino electorates.
As such, the Summit sought to manage focus on an array of important issues for Hispanic entrepreneurs. But the purpose, for Senate Democrats anxious to keep their hold on to the majority in 2012, was to stress party support for Hispanic and other small businesses. The forum provided information on accessing capital, the creation of policies in support of small business growth, and lending and procurement opportunities.
While obviously a stump for Democratic talking points, the event was ultimately useful to any small business owner. Despite that, relatively few business owners were in attendance. Many of the attendees represented Chambers of Commerce or non-profits that support Hispanic populations. Others were local legislators from around the country grabbing at business cards, hand shakes and potential resources to take back home.
Democratic accomplishments such as the Small Business Jobs Act were put on blast, with Senate leaders arguing that it provided $12 billion in tax cuts for small business. And there was talk about the HIRE Act, which cut payroll taxes for new workers, the Recovery Act – which Democrats claim created more than 1 million jobs while boosting economic growth by 2.5% – and the Affordable Care Act, which is claimed to have provided $40 billion in tax cuts to small businesses.
Several Senators were asked for empirical data to back their claims. All said staffers would forward the information.
After opening remarks, subsequent panels provided what small business owners in attendance came to hear: information on access to capital, contracting, and procurement opportunities.
Joe Jordan, an Administrator with the SBA, chipped in with the many programs available to Hispanic and other small businesses from the Small Business Administration.
“Our Fast Cash program has cut the time it takes contractors to get paid from the federal government in half . . .our HUBZone program provides preference to contractors working in certain underdeveloped areas . . . and our 8a program continues to provide opportunities to minority business owners,” said Jordan. ”However, Hispanics still lag behind the population in their percentages of participation within these programs.”
Pew recently released a study that shows the “wealth gap” between White households and other households of color. Although many SBA solutions have helped to reduce or limit the expansion of the gap, Javier Palomarez of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber reiterated that these programs alone will not be enough to significantly alter the current condition of minority households and businesses.
Several Senators in attendance again stressed the importance of passing the American Jobs Act, which was touted as potentially impacting American jobs growth, specifically among Hispanics and other minorities.
Senate Majority Leader Reid blocked the Act from coming to a vote earlier in the week, increasing doubts that Capitol Hill Democrats are sincere about the bill’s passage.
Despite the usual concerns over the economy and the passage of the American Jobs Act, those in attendance welcomed the information.