Latino business owners in Las Vegas optimistic, study shows

Norberto Madrigal knows owning a small business is no easy task, even in a booming industry like construction.

Madrigal, a co-owner of Lunas, a family-owned construction cleanup company in Las Vegas, said his company has been struggling to retain enough employees to keep up with demand. Still, he’s optimistic about business this year.

“It’s going to be great,” said Madrigal, who is vice chairman for the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce. “I feel optimistic about the market. I feel that it’s strong.”

According to a 2019 report from Bank of America released this month, Hispanic and Latino business owners across the country are more optimistic than their non-Hispanic peers despite being more likely to have employees leave over the past year.

Recruiting challenges

Lunas has just over 200 employees, but Madrigal said he has to hire about 10 people each month as workers move on to other projects.

“There are so many large projects in Las Vegas that are like a magnet. They’re pulling a lot of the help out there,” he said. “It’s difficult to find talent.”

Madrigal said larger, short-term projects such as the Raiders stadium pay up to 40 percent more than what he can offer as a small-business owner.

“There’s just a large demand for help, and there’s a short supply,” he said.

According to the report, 45 percent of Latino owners have had at least one employee leave over the past year, compared with 24 percent of non-Latino entrepreneurs.

Michael Borello, the small-business market manager for Bank of America in the Las Vegas and Reno markets, said the state’s low unemployment rate — 4.4 percent in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — makes for a competitive hiring market.

“That’s impacting all small businesses,” Borello said.

Borello tries to help small businesses find more solutions and benefits they can offer employees to keep them on staff, such as retirement plans and work flexibility.

‘Everything is going great’

Despite recruitment challenges, Madrigal said he and the local Latino business community he interacts with at Latin Chamber of Commerce are optimistic for growth this year.

“The sense is that everything is going great,” he said. “The Hispanic market is very hungry for growth, and it’s a community with resources.”

Borello said the Hispanic business community’s optimism stemmed from the demographic’s growth in the state. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that the number of Hispanic-owned small businesses in Nevada grew by 87 percent between 2007 and 2012.

That growth is still ongoing; U.S. Census Bureau estimates show Hispanics and Latinos constituted 29 percent of the total population in Nevada in 2018, up from 27 percent in 2010.

“It makes sense why they’re optimistic. They’re in that startup phase, they’re being very entrepreneurial,” Borello said. “Other (business owners) that are second or third generation, they have less of that optimism. They see the business cycle go up and down, and they’re a little more jaded.”

Borello said optimism is essential to small-business owners.

“It’s something that carries them through the tough days,” he said. “It’s a 24-hour job. You’re doing everything from turning lights on to looking for sales. … You have to have that optimism to be successful, to push through when the times are tough.”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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