Retail Takes A Big Hit
Worst hit in 2008 was the retail sector, whose overall earnings tumbled by about a third, followed by automotive, whose revenues fell by 21 percent. Layoffs hit the automotive sector hard for the second straight year. Employment in that industry fell by 23.2 percent, to about 5,050 employees. The year before, automotive employment dropped by 10 percent.
This year, 58 new companies were added to the HB 500 list; oddly, it's the same number as the year before.
But if one thing illustrates the kind of year 2008 has been, it's this: For the first time in about a decade, several companies on the HB 500 list -- seven, to be exact -- posted revenues of under $5 million.
Overall employment in the HB 500 dropped significantly for the second consecutive year, falling 2.4 percent last year to 131,894 employees. That's down from 147,465 employees in 2006, the peak of a decade-long continuous climb.
Also, the proportion of CEOs who cited market conditions as top barriers to growth jumped to 55 percent in 2008, up from 41.2 percent in 2007, and just 30.4 percent in 2006. Conversely, those citing "labor shortage" as a top barrier plummeted to 0.4 percent in 2008 from 8.4 percent the year before.
Tight Focus Aids Insurer
The surprising bright spot of this year's list was the financial sector, which posted an impressive 17.2 percent boost in revenues.
Pan-American Life Insurance Co. of New Orleans was among the successful businesses in this category, showing an 11 percent gain in revenue over the previous year, as well as a healthy 6 percent profit.
CEO Jose Suquet attributed the trend-bucking success to a sharpened focus. The company's core mission, he said, is providing work-site benefits to companies in Latin America and the United States that employ large numbers of Hispanics.
"When I got here we were doing too many things," he told HispanicBusiness Magazine. "We sold off any businesses or killed off any initiatives that didn't really fit in with our strategy."
Also showing a surprising uptick was the construction sector, which posted an 8.8 percent gain from 2007. But that might have simply been a market correction, as the construction sector in 2007 experienced a traumatic 23 percent nosedive.
One exemplar in construction this year was Dallas-based Azteca-Omega Group, which boosted revenues by 63 percent, to $87.5 million.
"Some of it is luck, some of it is skill, some of it is being positioned correctly in the marketplace," said Senior Vice President Terry Cassidy, whose company last year won a contract to install steel handrails in the new Dallas Cowboys stadium.
Energy Firms Energized
Mirroring a major movement on the Fortune 500 list -- in which Exxon Mobil dethroned Wal-Mart for the No. 1 spot -- Hispanic-owned energy companies thrived.
It was the only industry in which every one of the top 10 companies brought in more money than the year before. This is in no small part because of sky-high fuel prices, which anyone with an automobile surely remembers.
Topping the HB 500 list in the energy sector was Denver-based Venoco Inc.
To see a gallery of photographer Matt Graves' tour of Venoco Inc., please
Venoco Vice President Mike Edwards said that although oil prices hit a record $147 per barrel in the summer of 2008, they dropped precipitously, to about $44 by the end of the year.
"Still, overall we had a good year," he said, adding that the company also boosted production by more than 10 percent.
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