By Kelli Hewett Taylor
Paper: Birmingham News (AL)
Title: Asians control biggest slice of Hoover minority businesses
Date: January 17, 2007
Asians make up just 3.4 percent of Hoover’s population, but they own many more businesses in the city than do blacks, who make up 14.5 percent of the city’s residents, U.S. Census Bureau data shows.
Asians own 219 businesses in Hoover, or 3.7 percent of the total 5,853 businesses, according to the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, released last year but based on data from 2002.
Comparatively, there were fewer than 100 black-owned businesses in Hoover, not enough to even be ranked in the Census Bureau’s survey. The bureau doesn’t give statistics if there are fewer than 100 businesses in a category.
Tinh Dang, who opened Dang’s Alterations shop on John Hawkins Parkway near Wal-Mart in 2001, didn’t raise an eyebrow when she heard Asians are Hoover’s largest group of minority business owners.
Asians are motivated to open their own businesses, especially if their English is limited, Dang said.
”You can work for yourself, and you don’t have to deal with that many people,” said Dang, who employs her niece and her daughter. ”They can do the work and not have to worry too much about the language.”
She chose Hoover both for the safety and the revenue potential of pricey neighborhoods, she said.
”For me, it was a way to make more money,” said Dang, a native of Vietnam who began her business in Center Point. ”There are a lot of people here, and they dress up. They need good alterations.”
According to the Survey of Business Owners:
– The combined 2002 receipts of Asian-owned businesses in Hoover were 0.5 percent of the city’s total, or $44.4 million. In the metro area as a whole, Asians own 1,181 businesses, or 1.5 percent of the total. Their metro businesses’ receipts were nearly $482 million, or 0.5 percent of the metro total of $90.6 billion.
– The metro area includes 6,964 black business owners, or 9 percent of the metro total. Their total receipts were not included in the survey at the city or metro level because of privacy issues.
– Fewer than 100 Hispanics own businesses in Hoover. The metro area includes 790 Hispanic business owners, or 1 percent of the total. They reported combined metro receipts of slightly more than $141 million, or 1.6 percent of the metro total.
– Fewer than 100 AmericanIndians and Native Alaskans own businesses in Hoover, but they own 450 businesses in the metro area, or 0.6 percent of the total. Their reported combined receipts of nearly $134 million represent about 0.14 percent of the metro total.
Henry Womack, owner of ”Monthly Coupons” magazine, was stunned to learn that he is one of the city’s few black entrepreneurs. His magazine targets high-end zip codes for coupons on everything from restaurants to auto dealers to salons.
”I think that needs to be addressed by the City of Hoover,” Womack said. ”Maybe a program should be put in place to help attract more minority business owners. It’s very important.”
Womack emphasized that the business diversity should be equal to the population in the city. ”The potential is here,” he said.
He suspects demographics may play a part in the absence of color in Hoover’s businesses.
Hoover’s estimated 2005 population breakdown was:
– 80 percent white.
– 14.5 percent black.
– 3.4 percent Asian
– 5.3 percent Hispanic
”When you are opening a business, there’s a question of, ‘Will they accept me?”’ Womack said. ”That was one of the things I wondered about. But the answer for me has been yes. Over 90 percent of my clients are white. A lot of it comes down to the products and services you offer.”
Where Hispanics are concerned, longtime business owner Jesse Hernandez thinks the numbers are flawed.
”Hoover absolutely has over 100 (Hispanic-owned businesses) out there, but they are below the radar,” said Hernandez, who owns the Hispanic Employment Labor Pool, or HELP, on Lorna Road.
While HELP primarily finds construction jobs for Hispanic workers with the governmentrequired documents, he said the industry is packed with subcontractors who are undocumented, or haven’t filed for business licenses.
For Hispanics, ”Legal status is an issue, the (low) educational issue is also a factor,” Hernandez said. ”And like lots of other people in America, there are those who think the less the government knows about them, the better.”
The Hoover Chamber of Commerce includes 1,200 members – the majority of them white.
Bill Powell, executive director for the chamber, said his organization hasn’t done any studies about minority-owned businesses, but he would think the majority white population would be a factor in the low number of black-owned and Hispanic-owned businesses. However, ”we would be very much in favor of more diversity,” Powell said.
Some minority business owners prefer to align with the Birmingham Regional Chamber caucuses, targeted especially at Hispanics or blacks, he said.
”We haven’t been able to get into a lot of that,” said Powell, whose office includes a staff of three. ”There’s no point doing what they are doing. The suburban chambers can’t compete.”