Opinion: Investing in Latino Businesses Is Good for California’s Economy, Families and Communities – Times of San Diego

Hispanic small business owner
A Hispanic small business owner. Courtesy Bank of America

Every year at this time ― Hispanic Heritage Month ― we collectively celebrate the economic, cultural, and social contributions of the Latino community to our nation. We also honor the hard work of past generations that have provided more opportunities to today’s Latino community.

With Latinos making up one-third of San Diego’s population and being the minority majority in California, it’s important for our diverse communities to come together to help build a future where there are no barriers for success.  At Bank of America, we strive to do our part to create financial equity and help build wealth in San Diego’s Latino communities.

We do this because as the Latino population grows, so does their impact on our economy.

Nationally, Latino wealth is increasing at more than three times the rate of the overall population, according to a report recently released at the San Diego L’Attitude conference. Additionally, if California’s Latino population was measured by gross domestic product, that economic output would be $706.6 billion in 2018 — larger than the entire economic output of Ohio.

This Latino GDP research for states and major metropolitan areas, funded by Bank of America, found that this incredible growth in California was fueled by notable factors. For example, the state’s Latino labor force grew nearly seven times as quickly as the non-Latino population, and the number of Latinos with at least a bachelor’s degree grew at a rate 2.5 times faster than non-Latinos between 2010 and 2018.

While all this is positive momentum, there’s more to be done to help ensure equity and access that is sustainable over time.

Investing in Business

Investing in Latino wealth means supporting historically underserved entrepreneurs so they are set up for success. Early-stage funding is critical for the growth of new business, especially when Latino entrepreneurs still face gaps in financial and business education, funding, and networking opportunities. This is unjustifiable.

As part of our commitment to advancing racial equality and economic opportunity in historically disadvantaged communities, we have so far directed $350 million into minority- and women-led venture funds and those that invest in minority- and women-led companies — including an early investment in San Diego-based L’Attitude Ventures. Of the funds we have in our portfolio, one in every four are led by Latino managers, providing capital that will help entrepreneurs and small business owners grow their businesses, create jobs, and improve financial stability.

And what’s good for business can be good for families and communities. A majority (86%) of Latino business owners are committed to building generational wealth through their business, according to a new small business owner report by Bank of America. Community involvement is also a priority, with 88% of Latino business owners saying they actively give back to their communities, taking actions such as donating products and services, volunteering and sponsoring local events and teams.

Building Career Pathways

An important element to creating opportunities for Latinos to be successful and build wealth, whether as a business owner or employee, is ensuring that our educational institutions are creating pathways to well-paying jobs and careers. Bank of America partners with colleges and universities to build those pathways, so students from disadvantaged backgrounds can have a level playing field for professional success.

In San Diego, this includes half-million dollar investments in San Diego State University and  Southwestern College as part of Bank of America’s Progresando initiative, focused on increasing Hispanic-Latino representation in health careers and addressing the shortage of culturally sensitive, Spanish-speaking health providers. The bank also helps more Latinos enter the financial services sector through a local and nationwide partnership with UnidosUs

As a major employer ourselves, Bank of America also invests in the local recruiting and career development of our own employees to help them achieve professional success here in San Diego. Our award-winning employee network, Hispanic/Latino Organization for Leadership and Advancement (HOLA), was created nearly 20 years ago to provide invaluable mentoring and career development for our Latino employees.

Supporting and honoring our 12 million Hispanic and Latino clients is not just a month-long initiative, it is a long-term, multi-generational investment in America, and we are proud to be investing in a stronger economy for our region now and for years to come.

Julian Parra is the Business Banking Pacific Southwest Region Executive for Bank of America and is based in San Diego.