BIZTIPS - August 14, 2005

Biz Tips: Small Business Creates Opportunities
Sunday, August 14, 2005
By Art Hill

Go back a couple of generations, and many of us are from somewhere else. With the notable exception of Native Americans, our forefathers came from Europe, Asia, Central or South America.

Usually the first employment opportunity for immigrants is in businesses with low-skill jobs. Why? Usually it’s because they don’t require refined language skills. But many times the next rung of opportunity comes in self-employment or business ownership. Where I grew up, the Italian deli, Greek restaurant, and German bakery were the backbone of main street.

Once again, small business leads in creating economic opportunities. In Oregon, where 96% of jobs are in businesses with fewer than 20 employees, our next wave of business development is in Latino enterprises. Business owners who participated in our recent 6-week small business workshop in Hood River ranged from a father and daughter manufacturing and selling food products to the owner of three automotive businesses grossing over a million dollars a year and expanding to a fourth location.

The workshop, “Empresarios Latinos” covers all the basics, from writing a business plan to finance and market research. The program is available in English or Spanish. After all, if you were starting a business in Chile, wouldn’t you jump at the chance to get training in English even though you spoke Spanish with your customers? Of course you would.

What are the lessons here? First, small business leads in creating opportunities for successful integration into the incredibly rich fabric of our American society. Second, every one of us benefits from small business growth. Third, the talent out there is remarkable. The independent real estate broker in our workshop had less than perfect English, but she has access to both Anglo and Latino buyers, and her numbers leave no doubt about her sales skills.

These entrepreneurs are permanent members of our business communities. When they buy equipment, rent commercial property, and hire employees, it’s in our best interest to support them. Years ago, some business opened an opportunity for our grandparents or great grandparents. Now it’s our turn.

Content © 2005 East Oregonian