Mario Durazo, Jr

From left to right: Mario Durazo, Jr., Adrienne Ponce and Mario Durazo, Sr. 

According to Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Marketing Monica Villalobos, small businesses not only drive our economy forward, they’re our future.

Of those many businesses, Villalobos noted that a lot of those future economic drivers are categorized as minority-owned.

The U.S. Census Bureau tracks these kinds of statistics every five years in a report, a Survey of Business Owners. The last published report of which showed the number of minority-owned firms in the U.S. rose to 8 million, including a 46 percent increase in the number of Hispanic-owned firms over that period (up to 3.3 million).

The 2018 edition of DATOS, The State of Arizona’s Hispanic Market, won’t be released until September, but figures in last year’s report show that Latina-owned businesses have jumped more than 100 percent in the last decade to over 100,000. In fact, Hispanic women entrepreneurs have tripled—making them the fastest growing segment of business owners nationwide. 

While waiting for the latest survey results to be published, the Census Bureau, in its last Survey of Entrepreneurs, reported that minority-owned employer firms in the U.S. had increased approximately 4.9 percent in a single year and payroll for the firms increased to $254 billion. 

In our neck of the Sonoran Desert, statisticians were able to count 41,620 firms in Pima County and listed a good portion of them as minority-owned businesses.

“Although we know that Tucson’s population is 42 percent Hispanic, there is still a lack of data on that portion of Southern Arizona citizens, no statistics that are really adequate for our region,” said Lea Marquez Peterson, president and CEO of the 1,800-member local Hispanic chamber. 

Additional and current information will become available in mid-September when the chamber, in partnership with Telemundo Tucson, plans to publish its Hispanic Market Outlook: Southern Arizona Report.

According to Marquez, categorically, Hispanic-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of business in general, throughout the country. 

“As a rule, Hispanics tend to start businesses that are predominantly a second job for them, a way to bring in additional revenue, and they start those businesses either with personal credit cards or money contributed by family members,” Marquez said.

The Hispanic chamber has seen an overall economic upturn in the last year or so, and is starting to see small business lending open up, which is something that’s been a major impediment for all businesses, but especially Hispanic-owned firms. 

“In Southern Arizona, small business service companies are talking about the fact that they’re busier now than they’ve been in a couple of years—and that’s encouraging,” she said.

One of those successful minority-owned firms is Tucson’s Durazo Construction, which has poured a lot of concrete and hung a lot of sheetrock over the last three-plus decades since Mario Durazo founded the firm on a vision that focused on quality, service and integrity.

“Humble roots” is how Durazo described it, based on a thought process of “acting small and executing big”—total attention to detail in every project they built for the future.

Twice honored as Minority & Small Business Construction Firm of the Year by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (which, ironically, was a concept first developed by a former City of Tucson Minority Business Enterprise director) Durazo is listed in the top 8 percent of the 71,500 licensed contractors in the state, according to the building permit tracking service

Durazo has been a part of many of the notable commercial, design/build and historic preservation projects in Southern Arizona. The company has handled some 325 projects over the last four years alone while reporting an annual revenue of $3.6 million.

Raw materials distributor HT Metals, founded in 2003 and owned by sixth-generation Tucson native Carlos Ruiz, also started from scratch with just an idea and some enthusiasm. The company is now one of the region’s largest suppliers to businesses in both the U.S. and Mexico. 

“Early on, I was awarded a City of Tucson set-aside contract as a certified SBA 8a minority-owned business, but that designation hasn’t turned out to be a major marketing advantage for me,” Ruiz said. “I could have been given any kind of designation though because my success came from hustling and providing the goods and services my customers wanted.”

Ruiz said it’s been a bumpy ride with “a lot of dips and blips,” but that the last six to nine months has posted the best growth he’s seen in the last 15 years. 

“Demand is all over the place and with the tax cuts, the business environment now is creating opportunities for all,” Ruiz said. “It’s definitely true that a rising tide floats all boats.” 

Lee Allen is a Tucson Local Media freelance reporter.