If California wants to achieve an accurate count of all residents during the 2020 census and secure billions of dollars in federal funds, it must engage and activate an invaluable resource sitting at the ready: California’s Latino-owned businesses.
About 4.4 million Latino-owned businesses in the United States contribute more than $700 billion to the economy annually, according to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. These same businesses created nearly three million American jobs and are driving a gross domestic product of more than $2 trillion. A 2017 report by UC Riverside found that from 2007 to 2012, the number of Latino-owned businesses grew 46 percent across the country – including 44 percent in California and a remarkable 51 percent in Inland Southern California.
Despite challenges like inadequate access to capital, the number of Latino businesses in the U.S. are growing at a rate that outpaces just about every other ethnic group, according to a 2018 study from the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative.
In California, these businesses are economic drivers for local communities. But they represent more than the jobs they offer and revenue they inject into our economy. They’re anchors in our communities. They’re trusted partners, friends and neighbors.
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Latino families value their presence in our neighborhoods. Many Latinos come from countries where supporting locally-owned businesses translates into helping the people we trust the most. These businesses are part of the fabric of their communities. This is why Latino-owned business are essential players to ensure an accurate and successful census count.
Whether they own the local grocery store, taqueria, nail salon or dry cleaner, Latino business owners are trusted resources for the communities they serve. If there are two things Latinos agree on, it’s how much we value family and hard work. These businesses represent both.
Whether in the suburbs, a rural town or the city, Latino-owned businesses are safe communal places where goods and services are exchanged, and where cultural traditions are celebrated. If we wish to overcome the growing hesitation and fear some Latinos feel toward the census, then we must engage and invest in these community anchors, entrepreneurs and leaders.
As a basic starting point, Latino-owned businesses can be local community hubs that communicate the importance of the census, which starts in April 2020. Most people living out their daily lives are not walking around thinking about the census. Why should they? It happens every 10 years and, although it’s one of our most important trackers of vital statistics, few grasp its importance.
The census is the cornerstone of our democracy. It helps guarantee accurate political representation and a fair share of federal monies for our communities. This includes funding for health, education, transportation, infrastructure, employment and housing.
Latino-owned business can help prepare our communities in a timely and culturally-relevant way. What if we invested in these community anchors and trained their employees to communicate the importance of the census? What if Latino-owned restaurants or hair salons had kiosks where families could make a quick stop to fill out the census, either on paper or online? What if every Latino-owned grocery store or dry cleaner printed out receipts with a message reminding customers of the census’ importance?
Businesses could also host town halls or workshops. The possibilities are endless and the willingness is there. Now, we need to prioritize our investments to make sure Latinos participate in one of the most consequential counts of this century. More than $800 billion is at stake. As one of the fastest growing populations, our participation is necessary to ensure that our democracy remains safe and strong.
California is on the right track. The state has committed more than $140 million towards the California Complete Count initiative. Now we need to make sure those resources are allocated effectively. By targeting the hardest to reach communities and investing in the most culturally relevant, trusted and accessible community players. Latino-owned businesses must top that list.