Newcomers to the Top10 include Greenway Ford (No. 8), a Florida automotive dealership that presciently decided several years ago to open a handful of automotive dealerships in China.
"I have an associate who is Chinese-American," CEO Frank Rodriguez told Hispanic Business magazine. "We'd heard about things going on there and decided to take a look six years ago. The rest is history."
Also joining the ranks of top 10 is Ruiz Foods (No. 7), a California-based maker of frozen Mexican food, demonstrating perhaps, how penny-pinching consumers last year were less likely to eat out and more likely to stock up on frozen dinners.
The other newcomers are Crossland Construction (No. 5) of Kansas, Quirch Foods (No. 6) of Miami, Group O (No. 9) of Illinois and Pan-American Life Insurance (No. 10) of New Orleans.
Most notable, however, was the changing of the guard at the top. Brightstar, the global telecom wholesaler that had dominated the No. 1 spot for three consecutive years, was unseated in 2009 by Molina Healthcare, which, like other companies in the booming health care industry, has been a veritable juggernaut of growth showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
With its revenues skyrocketing to $3.7 billion from $3.1 billion in a single year, Molina actually benefited from the rising numbers of the unemployed, as it serves primarily low-income people covered by Medicaid.
But CEO J. Mario Molina, MD -- son of the late founder David C. Molina, MD -- said the company's culture of fiscal conservatism has also played a significant role.
"We are not flying around in private jets or throwing lavish parties, though I think we provide competitive benefits and have been very successful attracting talented people," Dr. Molina told Hispanic Business magazine. "We're dealing with money that comes from the taxpayers, so we are very, very careful about those things."
Molina Healthcare is poised to join the ranks of the Fortune 500, whose bottom-end companies report revenues around $4.1 billion.
Brightstar, meanwhile, saw its revenues drop 22 percent last year, to $2.7 billion from $3.5 billion. But while Brightstar was knocked off its the top 500 perch this year, the company still reported a profitable financial performance for the year.
"Because we responded quickly to the contraction and took proactive steps to reduce costs, we were actually more profitable in 2009 than in 2008," Marcelo Claure, the company's CEO, told Hispanic Business magazine. "Overall, 2009 was a very good year for Brightstar."
On a broader scale, very few sectors thrived. In all, seven of the nine sectors saw a decrease in revenue from the year before. The exceptions were finance, which broke even, and service, whose 7.1 percent boost was led by Molina Healthcare.
Hardest hit was automotive, down a whopping 57.2 percent, followed by energy, down half; and transportation, down a third.
The year's directory also extended a developing trend: More and more companies are posting less revenue from the year before. This year, it was a record-high 238. That's appreciably higher than last year's already disappointing number of 182 companies. In 2007, the number was 129; in 2005, it was a mere 60.
Although the energy sector suffered, the depth of its drop could be a little misleading.
That is to say, energy's performance in 2008 was unusually strong, due to a gravity-defying spike in oil prices during the first half of the year.
Mirroring a major movement on the Fortune 500 list, in which Exxon Mobil temporarily dethroned Wal-Mart as the No. 1 company, Hispanic-owned energy companies in 2008 enjoyed stunning success.
That year, energy was the only industry on the 500 in which all of the top 10 companies in the energy sector posted higher revenues than the year before.
In 2009, the opposite occurred: energy was the only industry in which each of the top-10 firms posted negative growth.
Much like last year, Florida boasted the highest number of companies on the list, with 119, followed by California, with 95.
Until about four years ago, California had the highest number of companies. But while the state has lost Hispanic-owned firms over the years, its overall revenue continues to rise, from $5.9 billion in 2007 to $6.3 billion in 2008 to $6.6 billion last year.
Florida, meanwhile, saw its revenues tumble in 2009, to $9.7 billion from $12.2 billion the year before.
Arizona continues to climb the list, rising to 18 companies from 16 a year ago and 12 companies two years ago. However, it remains to be seen how that state's controversial new immigration law will affect the Hispanic businesses there.
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