The number of minority businesses is growing four times as fast as businesses overall, according to census figures released yesterday.
The figures, which look at 1997 and are based on a survey every five years by the Commerce Department's Census Bureau, also show that Maryland has the eighth-highest number of minority firms in the country, although it is one of the smallest states.
Minorities owned 2.8 million of all U.S. businesses in 1997, a 30 percent increase from the 2.1 million owned in 1992, the report showed.
The total number of U.S. businesses grew from 17.3 million to 18.4 million, or 7 percent, during that period.
Business experts said the numbers show that there are increased opportunities for minorities, but also warned that the companies still face barriers when looking for money to grow.
"A lot of opportunities don't come up for minorities so they can buy a larger business, because people assume small minority businesses don't have access to the resources needed to run a large company," said Ackneil M. Muldrow II, president and chief executive officer of Baltimore-based Development Credit Fund Inc., which provides loans to small businesses.
The Commerce Department found that 82 percent of the country's minority businesses were small, sole proprietorships, and most were in the service or retail industry. Only about 3 percent of minority companies had sales of $1 million or more.
Maryland had 82,600 minority businesses, about 21 percent of the state's 400,200 firms, in 1997, according to the census figures.
Maryland's diverse population and its proximity to Washington and federal government agencies has helped foster that growth, state business experts said.
"There is a lot of entrepreneurial opportunity for people living in Maryland, especially in the area of federal contracts," said Kathy Snyder, president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.
Like the rest of the country, much of Maryland's minority growth has been influenced by its growing immigrant population. The census numbers found that Hispanics owned the largest share of minority firms in the United States, and that Asian and Pacific Islanders earned the largest share of revenue.
Prince George's and Montgomery counties account for about 70 percent of the state's immigrant population and many of its businesses, said Martin Ford, associate director of the Maryland Office for New Americans.
"Rockville Pike and Langley Park are like the United Nations of restaurants," he said.
While immigrants have largely bypassed Baltimore for cities like Philadelphia, the influence of Hispanics and Asians on the city's business makeup is clear, Ford said.
The most notable example in Baltimore is the presence of Hispanic stores that line the streets in Fells Point, he said.