How Hispanic Small Businesses Navigate Today's Turbulent Political Climate

How Hispanic Small Businesses Navigate Today's Turbulent Political Climate

by Patricia Guadalupe, January 2020

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The year 2020 brings the unofficial start of an important election season in the United States, when voters will decide whether to give President Trump another term or go with the Democratic Party's nominee—keeping in mind that an independent or third-party candidate could jump in.

How HSBs Navigate Today’s Turbulent Political Climate

And it's not just the presidential election that's upon us later this year, but the entire U.S. House of Representatives and several U.S. Senate seats, along with many state and local races. So what are Hispanic entrepreneurs saying about this? Does the current political climate cloud the way they do business, or not?

A Climate of Uncertainty

Chicago entrepreneur Xavier Hernández says that his biggest worry is the feeling that everything seems to be up in the air. "The president is not known as someone who keeps to what he says. He says one thing one day and another thing another day, so sometimes I don't know what to think," says Hernández, who has two companies. XD Technology is a venture capital firm that assists other entrepreneurs, and BTec is a technology education company.

And it's not just the president that gives him a sense of uncertainty, says Hernández. "I don't see any of the other candidates really paying attention to the Latino business community and our concerns," he says. "They really haven't talked about any of it at all, and that bothers me." Hernández says that he tries, as much as possible, to keep on track with his business ventures, but "when you're not sure what's going to happen next, it's hard."

That's the same kind of concern that Barrie Lynn Tapia has. Tapia is a self-employed attorney in the nation's capital with a growing list of clients. "I just try to tune it (the political talk) out because it is nerve-wracking," she says. "It almost feels like a ping pong game where it's back and forth and back and forth, with one thing being said one day, and something different the next."

The Impact on Hispanic Small Businesses

The White House's hard-line stance on immigration also has an impact on Tapia's work, as many of her clients are immigrants. "Everything is taking longer since he [Trump] came into office. The asylum claims are taking longer, the immigration applications are taking longer, everything, and people are in limbo wondering what's going to happen, and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight. It's causing a horrible backlog," she says.

Tapia adds that the changes to the tax code signed into law by President Trump affected Hispanic businesses such as hers. "We were hit by a big tax bill and that had never happened before, and the thing is [that] I'm not sure what's going to happen if someone else is elected [president] because no one has been specific about their policies related to business or taxes."

Hernández adds that another one of his concerns in this current political climate is how neither the White House nor Congress is talking about the growing shortage of skilled labor and how that impacts Hispanic-owned businesses. Ironically, construction and the trades industry employ many Latino workers—and Latino entrepreneurs—but it is getting increasingly difficult to find workers with the necessary skills, says Hernández. "I really wish the decision-makers would spend some time focusing on vocational training and education, and how we really need to get more attention on preparing people for those types of jobs. They're not really doing anything about that."

In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects faster-than-average growth over the next few years in skilled labor jobs such as construction, but not enough workers to fill those jobs. "The [presidential] candidates are missing an opportunity by not talking about [it]," says Hernández, who adds that he's also concerned that the Trump administration's cap on visas for foreign workers is impacting entrepreneurs and businesses here in the United States. "Those visas go real fast. The demand far outstrips the supply, and the administration hasn't increased the limit."

Tuning Out the Political Talk to Focus on Business

Nonetheless, the current political climate in the United States, warts and all, is not such that it's impossible to do business, and that is a godsend, says Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and consultant Luis Vásquez-Ajmac. Like Tapia, he tunes out the political talk after a while. "Otherwise, I wouldn't get anything done," he says.

Vásquez-Ajmac says that the best thing to do is to follow a routine, which he does religiously every workday. "I get to the gym extra early in the morning and check out the news while I'm working out, or I listen to the news when I go out on a run. Then I get back and turn that all off and focus on my business and what I have to do."