By Nicolás Peña
As we honor Hispanic Heritage Month, we must recognize the significant contributions the Hispanic community has made towards America’s role as a leader in both the economic and technological sectors.
Hispanic-Americans have played an integral role across a multitude of industries, contributing to our booming and diverse economy. According to the 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship Report, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses has grown nearly 34 percent over the last decade, generating nearly $500 billion in annual revenue and employing roughly 3.4 million Americans. What’s more, among the top 10 nations in the world, ranked by gross domestic product (GDP) or monetary measure of the market value of all the final goods and services produced in a specific time period, the Latino GDP was the fastest growing between 2017 and 2018, increasing 8.7 percent.
A key part of the Hispanic community’s economic success has been their willingness to adopt technological tools that have expanded job opportunities and growth. As the fastest growing population in America, technological innovations such as social media advertising have enhanced Hispanic-owned businesses’ access to new consumers and marketplaces, customer service capabilities and so much more.
Standing behind the Hispanic community’s forward-thinking entrepreneurship are organizations, such as the Chilean startup, Algramo which is dedicated to producing more sustainable ways for consumers to utilize cleaning supplies, including reducing packaging waste through “smart dispensers.” Through Algramo’s app, consumers are able to refill their cleaning products from “an electric tricycle at their door or at an in-store vending machine.”
Algramo exemplifies the Latino community’s capitalization of technology to build their businesses, and it is due to this innovative ability to leverage technological platforms and tools that many Hispanic-owned businesses have been better able to recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic hurt millions of businesses across the country, but disproportionately impacted minority-owned businesses. For example, Hispanic women in particular faced enormous obstacles. According to a 2020 report, twice as many Latina-led companies faced closure compared to Latino-led businesses. Moreover, Latina-owned organizations experienced higher rates of layoffs than their male counterparts.
Like many companies, Hispanic-owned businesses turned to technology to help mitigate the pandemic’s effects. Rene Vargas, a Miami native with Cuban roots, is the manager of the cleanup and restoration firm, First Onsite, in the Southeast Florida division. As a company dedicated to serving communities in crisis, COVID-19 underscored the need to develop solutions that would expand the business’ reach and responsiveness. Thanks to technology, First Onsite was able to continue to fulfill client requests uninterrupted by the pandemic.
Technology has allowed organizations, such as First Onsite, to remain afloat during the pandemic, and continues to introduce new and innovative methods of operation. As businesses become more technologically savvy and efficient, America’s economy will only continue to grow. However, such technologies are at risk as Congress considers anti-competition legislation that could stifle the innovative power of technology in helping American small businesses thrive.
We owe it to the small businesses who have fought to stay afloat during the last 18 months to protect the very technologies that buoyed them in a time of crisis. Policymakers must be careful not to support legislation that cedes America’s technological and economic edge to foreign adversaries as the long-term effects could be devastating for America’s Hispanic-owned businesses who are still working to recover and adapt.
Nicolás Peña is the Communications and Programs Specialist at the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.