Policymakers
continue to search for ways to help those looking for work find jobs. The
minority business community should be at the center of that conversation.

Minority
firms have been an engine of job growth for the U.S. economy, outpacing growth
within the general business community for most of the last decade.

According to
the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people employed at minority-owned
businesses jumped 27 percent - from 4.7 million to 5.9 million - between 2002
and 2007.  Job growth for
non-minority-owned firms was less than 1 percent during that time.

In those five
years, the number of minority-owned firms in the U.S. grew 46 percent, to 5.8
million. Meanwhile, the number of firms in the overall economy expanded at less
than half that rate.

The revenue
of minority-owned businesses is also growing much faster than that of
non-minority-owned businesses. Between 2002 and 2007, minority-owned firms'
revenue jumped 56 percent to $1 trillion annually. At non-minority firms,
receipts were up just 21 percent, although average gross receipts for
non-minority-owned firms remain much larger than those of minority-owned firms.

Minority
businesses are emerging as leading exporters, too. They exported to 41
countries on six continents between 1992 and 2009. Minority firms are twice as
likely to generate sales through exports as non-minority firms.

With these
figures in mind, there's no doubt that minority entrepreneurs will lead the
American business community's charge to double exports within the next five
years, as the President's National Export Initiative has challenged.

While
minority-owned businesses are growing at a breakneck pace, disparities continue
to exist between minority- and non-minority-owned firms. Just 800,000 of
America's nearly 6 million minority firms have more than one employee. The
annual revenue for the average minority-owned firm is about $300,000 less than
that of a non-minority-owned firm.

Closing the
entrepreneurial revenue gap between minority- and non-minority-owned businesses
based on the share of the adult minority population would add $2.5 trillion to
our nation's economic output, creating 11.8 million more American jobs and
unleashing the innovation of a long-undervalued economic sector.

Corporate
America can strengthen its efforts to make minority-owned businesses a larger
part of its global supply chain, and minority business owners can and should do
a better job of embracing aggressive growth models and capitalizing on
opportunities for alliances, mergers and strategic partnerships.

At the
initial stages of growth, most business owners look to expand their operations
in small steps, taking on one new contract or customer at a time. This approach
makes sense as a company establishes itself.

But once a
firm starts posting sustained profits, it must explore more sophisticated
options for growth. Otherwise, as history has demonstrated, company revenues
plateau and job growth grinds to a halt.

The most
successful minority-owned businesses in this country have embraced aggressive
models to join the upper echelons of the American economy - and have created
thousands of jobs in the process.

Many of the
largest black- and Hispanic-owned businesses were created through mergers,
acquisitions, or joint investment projects. For instance, McDonalds
collaborated with a Hispanic entrepreneur to form Lopez Foods, a top supplier
that now generates $500 million annually in revenue.

Johnson
Controls partnered with a minority management team to create Bridgewater
Interiors - now a billion-dollar company. And more than 20 years ago, Coca-Cola
partnered with a minority investment group to create the Philadelphia Coca-Cola
Bottling Company.

Minority-owned
firms don't have to pursue these growth strategies blindly. The Minority
Business Development Agency at the U.S. Department of Commerce supports more
than 40 business centers nationwide to help minority-owned firms secure access
to capital and contracts and assistance in entering growing foreign markets.

As we look
for ways to create more jobs, shining a light on the economic potential of the
minority-business community can significantly benefit the American people and
economy. Minority businesses are creating jobs at a rate faster than
non-minority owned businesses of similar size and are an increasingly important
source of economic opportunity for all Americans.

[David Hinson
is the National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency at the
U.S. Department of Commerce.]

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Daniel Maldonado