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Number of Pacific Islander-owned businesses rises

April 5, 2011
By JENNIFER KELLEHER , The Associated Press

HONOLULU - The number of businesses owned by people of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander ancestry increased 31 percent between 2002 and 2007 nationwide, the Census Bureau said Monday.

In Hawaii, home to the majority of those businesses, there was a 36 percent increase. There were 11,383 of those businesses in Hawaii and 9,255 in California.

While the results are from the 2007 Survey of Business Owners, the lag in reporting is mostly due to the large volume of data involved, said Lee Wentela, chief of the Census Bureau's Economic Census Branch.

"It's meant to be a benchmark survey of progress over time," he said.

In 2007, businesses nationwide with owners of Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander descent generated $6.5 billion in receipts, 51.6 percent more than in 2002, while those companies in Hawaii generated $2.4 billion in receipts, a 66 percent increase, according to Census data.

In Maui County, Native Hawaiian- and other Pacific Islander-owned business increased 78 percent, the largest surge statewide. Kauai County saw a 43 percent increase, Honolulu saw a 33 percent increase, and Hawaii County rose 11 percent.

The top three sectors for such businesses were: repair and maintenance, and personal and laundry services; construction; and retail trade.

"It's promising in the fact that it really shows the resolve of the entrepreneurial spirit of the Native Hawaiian business community," said Dirk Soma, president of the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce. He said that he would like to see data that tracks how businesses created in 2007 are faring today.

The survey findings were announced in Honolulu a day before they will be released nationally today, said Jerry Wong, a Census spokesman from the Los Angeles regional office.

H. Wailana Kamauu Jr., who owns American LED & Energy Corp., said tracking Native Hawaiian- and Pacific Islander-owned companies is important because of opportunities to do business with large corporations that aim to work with minority-owned companies. "This is an opportunity for our community," he said.

Eighty-eight percent of companies owned by Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders comprise just one person, noted Joseph Burns, director of the Honolulu center of the Hawaii Small Business Development Center. He said he suspects that is a reflection of people who became self-employed after losing a job.

The Survey of Business Owners is conducted every five years. The 2007 survey sampled more than 2.3 million businesses, Wentela said.

"The survey is the only source of regularly collected nationwide information on businesses owned by Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders," he said. "Although these firms represent a small number of firms nationally, they play a significant role in the business landscape of Hawaii."

The survey was conducted during a more prosperous economy and data does not reflect the subsequent economic downturn. However, Soma said his members have been able to adapt largely because they tend to be smaller companies with more flexibility.



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