South Florida nets 30% of revenues by most profitable Hispanic firms
By Frank Norton
When it comes to big money, South Florida dominates the landscape of Hispanic business in the US, researchers say.
The tri-county region alone drives 30% of all revenue generated by companies listed on the Hispanic 500, an annual ranking by Santa Barbara-based "Hispanic Business" magazine.
Earning a total of $7 billion in 2001, South Florida's Hispanic-owned firms grossed more than those in California and Texas combined, further underscoring the area's strength in attracting human and financial capital.
"Miami seems to grow many more high-revenue, performing companies than other areas," said Tabin Cosio, the magazine's research supervisor. "They just seem to be a lot more aggressive in the way they do business, both in terms of revenue goals and the way they market themselves."
While Miami business culture may play a role the region's power-base, other researchers said existing infrastructure is the driving force behind its Latino economy.
According to Toni Villamil, CEO of Washington Economics Group Inc. and former US undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs, it's a matter of having the right support structure - in this case access to capital, internationality and the most highly concentrated Hispanic population base in the US.
"It's the nurturing element that allows us to be more entrepreneurial. It's just easier when you already have an economic base of people that speak Spanish, work and understand the culture here," Mr. Villamil said.
While El Paso and Los Angeles also share Hispanic and bilingual business attributes, he said, Miami can actually capitalize on it. Downtown's cadre of Hispanic-owned banks no doubt boosts the Latin community's access to capital, Mr. Villamil said, much of which is managed by principals with ties to various Latin ethnic groups.
"That's something other regions just don't have," he said.
According to the Beacon Council, the county's economic development agency, Miami-Dade has the largest concentration of domestic and international banks on the East Coast south of New York City. About 100 commercial banks, thrift institutions, foreign bank agencies and Edge Act banks have facilities here.
In terms of internationality, Mr. Villamil and other researchers said Miami's increasingly pan-American population is more outward- looking than other US Hispanic populations.
While Mexican-Americans search for opportunities at home, Miami's Hispanics, he said, also tend to look southward at international opportunities with the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
Seven of the nation's top 10 Hispanic exporters to Latin America are Miami-based and generate nearly 60% of total export sales of the top 50 Hispanic exporters to the region nationwide, according to data gathered by "Hispanic Business."
Mr. Villamil said Miami-Dade County's diversifying Hispanic population fosters trade and bilateral investment with Latin America, and lends economic and political clout to growing Latino communities.
The four US counties with the largest Hispanic populations according to the Census 2000 are Los Angeles County with 4.2 million; Miami-Dade, with 1.3 million; Harris, TX, with 1.1 million, and Cook, IL, 1.1 million.
With 56% of the population being Hispanic, however, Miami-Dade has a greater saturation of the ethnicity than any other major US metropolitan area.
"That's concentration, and that translates into greater economic power," Mr. Villamil said.
"Other Hispanic immigrants elsewhere in the country work very hard, but they don't necessarily enjoy the same support base as they would here," he said.
Although California still boasts the greatest number of Hispanic 500 companies at 124, South Florida has more companies earning a half-billion dollar and more annually than any other region or state. The index' No. 2 MasTec, No. 3 Codina Group and No. 6 Brightstar all grossed more than a half-billion dollars in 2001 and are based in Miami-Dade.