Export revenues for Hispanic companies surged in 2000, but the faltering economy may stall further growth in some sectors.
By Scott Williams, HISPANIC BUSINESS® magazine, Nov. 2001
Following three years of decline, revenues for the HISPANIC BUSINESS Top 50 Exporters rose sharply to more than $1 billion in 2000, a 70 percent increase over the 1999 total, in part because U.S. companies are tapping deeper into the Latin American market.
Nevertheless, the downturn in the U.S. economy and uncertainty in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks probably signal leaner times for exporters in 2001 and 2002.
“The numbers in 2000 are obviously high because the economy was doing well until the last quarter,” says Ana Eiras, a Latin America policy and economic analyst for the Heritage Foundation. “This is a completely different year. The recent terrorist attacks will hurt the economy. I’m almost certain we’ll go into a recession.”
Despite the grim outlook, many Hispanic companies thrived in 2000. Export revenues totaled $1,005,940,000, compared with $592,100,000 in 1999, according to HispanTelligence, the research division of Hispanic Business Inc.
Brightstar Corp. of Miami tops the list of Hispanic exporters, with export sales climbing 313 percent from $73.4 million in 1999 to $303 million in 2000. Chief Executive Officer R. Marcelo Claure attributes the company’s phenomenal growth to its establishment of distribution centers and offices in 13 Latin American countries.
“That allows us to sell on a local basis rather than the customer having to come to Miami,” Mr. Claure says. “They would rather buy from a wholesale distributor who is in their own country.”
Brightstar has become the largest wholesale distributor of wireless equipment throughout Latin America. The company is among several Miami firms to make the list, further cementing the city’s reputation as the gateway to Latin America.
“Latin America is still one of the most underdeveloped areas in the world, and it has tremendous potential,” says Mr. Claure, who expects Brightstar’s export sales to increase to more than $500 million this year. Miami provides executives easy access to Latin America, where people still base business dealings on relationships and face-to-face meetings, he says.
With Miami serving as a hub, Florida once again leads among states with companies on the HISPANIC BUSINESS Top 50 Exporters list. Seven of the top eight and 12 of the top 20 Hispanic exporters are based in Miami. Florida has 26 companies on the list, followed by California (11), Texas (5), and Virginia (2). Wisconsin, New Jersey, Illinois, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C., each have one company on the list.
Miami’s dominance in exporting to Latin America can be partly attributed to its large Hispanic population. People from all over Latin America fly to Miami to shop at Hispanic-owned businesses, says Pedro R. Capo, chief operating officer for El Dorado Furniture, number 27 on this year’s list.
“Most people don’t speak the English language, so they like to go to Hispanic-owned businesses where they’re dealt with in Spanish,” affirms Mr. Capo, whose company reported $7.89 million in export revenues in 2000. “They feel like they’re in their own country because they can talk to anyone in their own language, and I think that has a lot to do with it.”
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