Hispanic-Owned Firms Gain Clout in Defense

Article excerpt

The Clinton administration has pledged to bolster its efforts to assist Hispanic entrepreneurs in receiving Small Business Administration-backed financing, access to federal contracts and technical assistance.

Although the Pentagon does not have any incentive programs specifically designed for Hispanic-owned businesses, prime contractors can still receive financial assistance for subcontracting to minority-owned companies such as Hispanic-owned firms, under existing programs.

There have been several success stories within the Hispanic defense community. Vista Technologies Inc., a San Antonio-based Latino-owned small disadvantaged business, was named the 1997 National Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year by the SBA. That company has contracts with the Army, Air Force, Navy and Department of Energy in providing environmental technologies, information management, weapon systems acquisition support, biomedical engineering and training services. The company also was named 1999 Small Business of the Year by Brooks Air Force Base, Texas.

Another case in point is Strategic Staffing Inc., a Hispanic-woman-owned small business, located in Alexandria, Va. Alicia Vicentini, company founder and president, was named one of the top 20 Hispanic women in business in Hispanic Business Magazine's April 1997 edition. Her company received a contract from the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in fiscal year 1998 to perform clerical duties at several NRL sites. The firm experienced an 80 percent growth rate in revenue from 1995 to 1998 and increased its staff four fold.

The Hispanic population in the United States has increased by 35 percent during the 1990s, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report. In 1998, Hispanics made up 11 percent-30.3 million-of the U.S. total population compared to 9 percent in 1990. The number of Hispanic-owned businesses increased 230 percent between 1987 and 1997. Today, Hispanics own an estimated 1.4 million businesses, generating a revenue of about $184 billion annually, according to recent figures.

Representatives from the administration said that they are working to aid a population segment that is expected to reach 42 million by 2010 and make up 25 percent of the population by 2040. The Hispanic market currently represents $356 billion in purchasing power, according to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. This figure is expected to reach $477 billion by the end of the millennium as businesses continue to grow.

Vice President Al Gore and Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Aida Alvarez recently addressed the issue before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Said Alvarez:

"Almost three years ago, at [the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's] annual meeting in Houston, I committed the SBA to an aggressive outreach strategy aimed at substantially increasing [SBA] lending to Hispanic-owned small businesses. And we signed a partnership agreement to work together to reach ambitious lending goals.

"We have done a good job, both of us, but we are going to have to do a better job in the coming months," she said. I intend to redouble our efforts to help make Hispanic Americans full partners in this ... …