Latino businesses in Arizona hit hard by pandemic but found a way to thrive

Nov 2, 2021, 4:45 AM

(Pexels photo)...

(Pexels photo)

(Pexels photo)

PHOENIX — The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted many small businesses, and those owned by Latinos have not been the exception.

About a third of Latino-owned businesses across the United States have shut down due to the pandemic, according to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“What we’re seeing here in Arizona is also very close to that,” said Monica Villalobos, president and CEO of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

However, Villalobos explained not all businesses owned by Latinos have had to shut down for good.

“These small business owners usually had a side hustle, or as I like to call it in Spanish a chambaladito, meaning that they may have a restaurant but they also have a catering company,” she said.

“While they may have had to close the restaurant, they were still able to make the catering business the primary business.”

She added this may be one reason why so many Latino business owners have continued to make money during the pandemic.

A report by Stanford University found 53% of Latino-owned businesses reported being profitable last year despite COVID-19 challenges, and another 24% reported breaking even.

Villalobos pointed out that while many Latino-owned businesses “are small and vulnerable, they’re also small and nimble.”

“And they’re able to kind of turn on a dime,” she said. “This isn’t like trying to steer the Titanic.”

She added their ability to be flexible has allowed them to pivot their business strategy to survive during the pandemic.

Latino-owned businesses were just one of the focuses in this year’s DATOS report by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The report also highlighted Latinos in Arizona have seen a significant increase in purchasing power. The Latino purchasing power was projected to reach $57 billion in 2022.

“We have already surpassed that number,” Villalobos said. “We achieved $63 billion in 2020.”

The housing market is one area where Latinos are spending their money.

According to the DATOS report, Latinos were the only demographic in the U.S. to increase their homeownership rate for each of the last six years.

The Urban Institute projects that growth will continue and estimates Latinos will account for 70% of homeownership growth in the U.S. over the next two decades.

But Latinos looking to purchase a home continue to face challenges. The lack of affordable housing inventory is the biggest barrier they face, according to the DATOS report.

This comes as Latinos now make up nearly 31% of Arizona’s population, according to 2020 census data. That’s up about a percentage point from a decade earlier.

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Latino businesses in Arizona hit hard by pandemic but found a way to thrive