By Nicole Lee | Sun Sentinel
Local entrepreneur Carlos Felix believes he was destined to work with computers. You could say technology was hard-wired into his DNA.
“I’ve been working with computers since I was 9 or 10,” said Felix. “It’s what’s in my blood. Why fight it?”
The 28-year-old runs Intraserv LCC, a computer networking business, with his wife, Pam, and partner James Ford.
The company, 6605 E. State Blvd., provides preventative maintenance on computer servers and workstations and installs security firewalls to prevent cyberspace hackers.
Several Latino entrepreneurs in Fort Wayne say the face of Hispanic business is expanding from its retail roots into more diverse professional services.
Felix and others in the city symbolize this evolution.
Felix said most of his clients aren’t Hispanic, but that shouldn’t matter.
“We’re professionals, after all,” he said. “It’s not about who we are, it’s about what we can do.”
In addition to operating restaurants, clothing stores and dry cleaners, Latinos are making inroads into the technology, marketing and communications fields.
An estimated 2 million Hispanic-owned businesses nationwide generate almost $300 billion in annual gross receipts, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration and HispanicTelligence, a data analysis service.
No current statistical data specifically document the inclusion of more non-traditional companies. Rosa Wheeler, president of the Greater Fort Wayne Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the organization is working to compile comprehensive information detailing the types of Hispanic-owned business operating in the city, but to date, the information is not available.
Even on a national scale, it’s hard to find the numbers. The U.S. Department of Labor was unable to provide this information. The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was contacted about this story, but did not provide information relating to this trend as of press time.
Despite the lack of statistical support, it’s clear changes are happening, says Salvador Soto, president and CEO of DeSoto Translation and Marketing, 1301 Lafayette St., a company that provides translation and oral interpretation services to clients in more than 20 languages.
Soto founded DeSoto in 1999 and said courts, hospitals and social-service agencies use his company to communicate with their international clientele.
“There has been a lot of growth in professional services,” he said. “A lot of people don’t recognize that they are Hispanic-owned businesses because they aren’t taco shops or mom-and-pop businesses” with a Spanish-sounding surname on the front door.
A child of immigrants, Soto, 29, grew up in Fort Wayne and says third- and fourth-generation Hispanics in the U.S. are the ones leading the charge into new business fields.
“Just drive down (the city streets of) Fairfield, Jefferson and Broadway,” and you’ll see the changes, he said.
Recent census figures indicate 37.4 million Hispanics live in the United States, comprising 13.3 percent of the total population. These statistics have caught the attention of those who want to tap into the Hispanic market, Wheeler said.
In addition to heading the Greater Fort Wayne Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Wheeler helps her clients establish their businesses, and works to broker partnerships between Hispanic and non-Hispanic businesses through her marketing/communications company, Wheeler & Associates.
“There’s a treasure in networking with the Hispanic community,” she said.
“Many of my (Latino) clients were architects, accountants and attorneys in their native countries, but they cannot practice here because they don’t have a (U.S.) business license.”
From 1997 to 2004, the number of firms owned by Hispanic women increased by 64 percent (553,618), and their combined revenue grew by 62 percent, to $44.4 billion. The greatest growth (73 percent) was seen in the transportation, communications and public utilities fields. Source: The Center for Women’s Business Research