Planning work on project

As Tucson continues to see more job  growth and a flurry of new business activity, economic forecasts look bright for the Old Pueblo. One of the most overlooked factors in this success has been the increase in minority-owned businesses over the past decade.

The latest census data shows that minority-led firms grew by nearly 59% from 2007-2012. This included a 53% increase for Black-owned businesses and 63% for Hispanic-owned businesses. This trend is expected to continue come the 2020 census.

Women have led the way in expanding their foothold on Arizona’s entrepreneurial community. The Arizona Hispanic Chamber’s 2018 DATOS report cites the number of Latina business owners increasing by 116%, which is 114% more than the growth rate among all other demographics.

With those exciting numbers in mind, let’s take a look at just a few of the minority-led firms making a difference in Southern Arizona.

Charlie Touche - Lovitt & Touche

Since its founding in 1911, Lovitt & Touche has grown to be one of the largest independent brokerage firms in the United States. The spark that ignited this growth was Carlos Touche, who immigrated from Mexico at age fourteen to try his hand at insurance and the American Dream.

In 1998, Carlos retired, handing off the reins to his son Charlie, Lovitt & Touche’s current CEO. Charlie oversaw impressive growth, expanded the company’s operations to Phoenix and Las Vegas, and added nearly 100 new employees. 

In 2014, Lovitt & Touche increased its community involvement through hundreds of thousands in donations and philanthropic programs like C.A.R.E.S., which connects employees with volunteer and community service opportunities. Lovitt & Touche has also been repeatedly named one of the Top Companies to Work For in Arizona by BestCompaniesAZ.

Stephanie Bermudez - Startup Unidos

What does it take to become Minority Business Owner of the Year? For 35-year-old Stephanie Bermudez, it meant creating Startup Unidos, a project that helps entrepreneurs in underserved communities. 

This year, Bermudez introduced the Startup Unidos Youth program, which works with Nogales-area high schoolers to help them develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills. Bermudez is a perfect example of building from within, harnessing the tremendous talent existing in Southern Arizona.

Jose Juarez & Courtney Williams - Emagine Solutions Technology

Southern Arizona has a history of healthcare innovation, including cutting-edge approaches to cancer and Alzheimer’s care. Jose Juarez and Courtney Williams carry on that tradition with Emagine, a mobile healthcare company looking to change the world.

Emagine’s signature product, VistaScan, enables smartphones and tablets to work as ultrasound machines. The company aims to make it easier for the 50% of the world that don’t have access to ultrasound.

Help is out there

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency, minority-owned firms deliver the same growth as non-minority businesses. 

While minority-owned businesses made incredible strides over the past decade, there is still plenty more to do. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of organizations offering help for minority-led small businesses. Just a few examples include the Minority & Small Business Alliance of Southern Arizona, the Black Chamber of Arizona, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. There are also low-cost educational opportunities for entrepreneurs through Local First Arizona’s Fuerza Local program.

Mike Trueba, CCIM is Vice President, Business Banking for Vantage West Credit Union, a $2 billion financial institution, which serves a growing Membership of more than 150,000 via branches across Arizona and online channels. Vantage West offers consumer and business banking services, and is federally insured by NCUA.VantageWest.org