Bruce P. Corrie, PhD, CHAI.NEWS
ALANA (African Latino Asian and Native American) businesses whether on University Avenue, Hmong Town or Downtown are growing very rapidly – much faster than other firms in Saint Paul, according to the latest data released in December, 2015, by the national Survey of Business Owners.
In 2012, there were 7000 ALANA firms in St. Paul with $771 million in sales employing over 8000 people with $164 million in annual payroll.
Between 2007-12 these firms grew in number by 62 percent and sales, jobs created and annual payroll all increased by more than 100 percent. During the same time period non-ALANA firms grew only by 10 percent in numbers and 22 percent in sales.
This growth is not surprising when one looks at new models for business development such as Little Mekong and Little Africa or youth entrepreneurs such as iPerform Theatre or the growth in ethnic malls such as Hmong Town.
In 2012 there were around 5600 Asian and Black firms and around 1100 Latino firms in the city and around 600 firms with employees. Though the survey does not specifically identity Hmong firms, from the data we can safely assume that there were around 2000 Hmong firms with almost 200 million in sales and with 131 of them having employees.
Since these firms can be important engines for economic growth and revitalization of the city policy makers can nurture their growth and development. The average sale of an ALANA firm is around $100,000 compared to $500,000 of a non-ALANA firm. As these ALANA firms grow they hire people from their community and neighborhood. Non-profit business development groups such as the Neighborhood Development Center and African Economic Development Solutions and Asian Economic Development Association have ample documentation of how these businesses build up their communities and neighborhoods.
City of Saint Paul data show only a growth of 5 percent in the utilization of these businesses in city contracting and purchases. There is plenty of room to grow. For example the new Minnesota United soccer stadium to be constructed in the midway area – the heart of where a lot of this vibrant entrepreneurship is occurring can leverage the growth of these businesses by utilizing them in the construction following the model of the Vikings Stadium.