LATINOS by the NUMBERS – October 2013

CONVERTING STEREOTYPES TO OPPORTUNITIES

While the restaurant, construction and landscaping industries are often related to stereotypes about Hispanics, today they have become economic drivers for the community and this country.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate not only the Hispanic heritage, but also the social and economic contributions Latinos have made to life in the U.S. To celebrate this month, it seems appropriate to mention the main industries that have helped Hispanic Americans shape this diverse and dynamic country.

The so-called unskilled labor or “low-skilled labor” has traditionally attracted the Hispanic community because they believed it was a way of achieving the American dream. The restaurant and food, construction, and landscaping businesses, for example, are three industries that have provided easy access and economic stability to Hispanic workers. Nowadays, these industries that were used in caricaturing or discriminating against Hispanics have become areas where leadership is emerging among future generations.

The Landscaping Industry

Latinos in this industry make up 35 percent of workers or 1.6 million landscapers or gardeners in the country. According to a study by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), this makes them the largest minority racial group and second in the industry, surpassed only by non-Hispanic whites which represent 54 percent of employees. At the same time, Hispanics represent 16 percent of the owners of these companies.

The Hispanic culture is the main reason why Hispanic Americans choose jobs in the landscaping industry and are successful in them. In cultural terms, the Latino upbringing values the orientation for success, attention to detail and the feeling that their jobs are a reflection of themselves. By fixing or decorating a home or property as their own, Hispanics stand out to owners and entrepreneurs who recognize and value these qualities.

In taking on such difficult tasks, there are many incentives beside their heritage to keep Latinos motivated in this line of work. “Recently, we are seeing a trend in the industry where Hispanic Americans are willing and motivated to assume positions in management, engineering, training of personnel and human resources,” said Raul Berrios, President of the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance (NHLA). “This industry is characterized by rewarding hard work, which gives the worker the opportunity of building his own business and raising a family.”

The Restaurant Industry

Starting a business in the food industry is not only delicious but it is also a brilliant and promising idea, according to a special report from IBISWorld detailing the best industries for starting entrepreneurs. Four of eleven prominent industries in this list relate to food: street food vendors or food trucks, ethnic supermarkets, relaxing drinks and wine sales.

More than 9.5 million people work in the restaurant industry in the U.S., according to the National Restaurant Association, of which 22 percent are Hispanic. The growth of the Hispanic population in the country has led to a greater demand for these products and has increased the general interest in local and ethnic foods.

This is a great opportunity for Hispanic-owned businesses, especially those dedicated to “fast-food” or casual dining. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of Hispanic-owned restaurants increased by 80 percent. Today, Hispanic flavors are becoming more popular in American culture, creating trends like fries with jalapeño flavor, gourmet tacos and ceviche.

The Construction Industry

Construction is the preferred industry among Hispanics when opening their own businesses, along with trade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction and both wholesale and retail sales accounted for 50.8 percent of income of Hispanic-owned businesses. Moreover, almost a third (30 percent) of Hispanics who decide to open their own businesses do so in construction.

In 2012, the construction of houses in the United States accelerated by 15 percent in September and reached its highest level in four years. According to a report by the Department of Commerce, this sector will continue to grow over the coming years. The construction industry will generate an increase in employment of 33 percent, equal to 1.8 million new jobs.

Construction, along with meat processing companies, was one of the industries that helped to mobilize Hispanics to urban areas. The majority of Hispanic construction workers in the United States are Mexican-Americans. Others are of Puerto Rican, Cuban, or South American origin.

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