Hispanics have become the largest minority group in the United States and are the second-fastest growing group in the nation behind Asian Americans. This tremendous increase in population has a clear connection with economic growth, as Hispanic households now hold considerable earning and consumer power compared to a decade ago.
In the Garden State, Hispanic Americans boast some of the highest rates of business ownership in the United States, as recent data shows they are more likely to have their own business than the overall U.S. population. New Jersey is home to over 120,000 Hispanic-owned businesses, which in turn create thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in tax revenues—a vital component to funding municipal services and shoring up social programs like Medicare and Social Security. Notably, New Jersey’s Latino Gross Domestic Product was $97 billion in 2018, larger than the entire economic output of the state of Hawaii.
However, the road to prosperity and the “American Dream” has been an arduous and lengthy one for many Hispanic entrepreneurs, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated existing challenges with access to capital and other financial resources. Nevertheless, Hispanic immigrants and Hispanic Americans continue to make strong and consistent contributions to New Jersey’s population and economic growth.
“As part of his vision to create a stronger, fairer and more equitable New Jersey economy, Governor Murphy is committed to taking a whole-of-government approach to knocking down barriers to facilitate greater equity in the access to much-needed municipal, state and federal resources for historically underserved communities,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “The NJEDA has developed a vast portfolio of programs designed to foster the growth of small businesses and create vibrant communities.”
Since March of 2020, the NJEDA has approved more than 91,000 support awards for businesses impacted by COVID-19. Through a combination of grants, low-interest loans, financing guarantees, and free business consulting, the Authority has provided more than $650 million worth of pandemic relief. Many of these programs have specifically targeted the most at-risk businesses, including micro businesses, Hispanic-owned businesses, and businesses in communities that were eligible to be designated as New Jersey Opportunity Zones.
Throughout the pandemic, the NJEDA partnered with leading marketing firms that specialize in outreach to minority- and women-owned companies to ensure awareness of NJEDA COVID recovery resources in underserved communities. As a result of these efforts, the NJEDA has provided more than $160 million in COVID-19 relief to minority-owned businesses, many of which were Hispanic-owned, and a similar amount to woman-owned businesses. These numbers will continue to increase as the Authority continues to process applications for relief and awards additional grants and loans.
More recently, as businesses recover from the impact of the remnants of Hurricane Ida, the Authority selected the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (SHCCNJ) and the African American Chamber of Commerce of NJ (AACCNJ) to guide businesses that sustained storm damage through the process of applying for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Non-COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program and/or Business Physical Disaster Loan Program.
“We are very appreciative of our longstanding partnership with the NJEDA, the resources it provides, and the open line of communication we have with its leadership,” said SHCCNJ President & Chief Executive Officer Carlos Medina. “This support has been extremely critical to so many of our members during the pandemic and recent severe weather, as it has allowed them to expand their networking opportunities, connect with mentors, and have access to educational resources necessary to flourish in New Jersey.”
A central pillar of the Murphy administration’s efforts to ensure the state’s long-term economic resilience is implementing the suite of new programs created by the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (ERA). One of those programs, the Main Street Recovery Program is a $100 million small business support program that will fund multiple financial assistance products aimed at supporting the growth and success of small businesses in New Jersey. The NJEDA plans to open applications for one element of the Main Street Recovery Program, the Small Business Lease Grant Program, on October 20. The $10 million pilot program will help revitalize downtowns and main streets by offsetting a portion of the cost associated with businesses and nonprofits leasing street-level space. It is the first of several programs the NJEDA will launch in the coming months under the Main Street Recovery Program. More information is available at https://www.njeda.com/main-street-recovery-fund/.
“State resources have been a lifeline for small businesses and nonprofits recovering from the effects of the pandemic and the impact of recent storms,” said Latin American Economic Development Association (LAEDA) President and Chief Executive Officer Raymond L. Lamboy. “Giving small business owners and entrepreneurs the tools they need to recover lost revenue and grow their businesses is an investment in our local economies and the communities they support.”
The role of Hispanics in the U.S., and particularly in New Jersey, is as important as it has ever been. Latinos bring color, vibrancy, passion and flavor to our communities, but they also strengthen the fabric of this nation with their perseverance and hard work as they have proven to be a source of resiliency for the U.S. economy.
As we mark the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, our commitment to better serve Hispanic and other minority business owners and residents in New Jersey keeps getting stronger. And as we pledge to continue to create an ideal environment for small businesses to thrive in our state, we must never forget that as Hispanics’ influence keeps growing in New Jersey, so does our economy.