WASHINGTON – Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) praised the hard work and success of Hispanic businesses for their contribution to the economic growth of America. Speaking at the opening reception of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Legislative Conference yesterday, Kerry also said there is more work to be done.

“Our country’s Hispanic entrepreneurs exemplify American innovation, hard work and the American dream,” said Kerry, the Ranking Democrat on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “Their energy and creativity has turned into real economic success in our country, with the number of Hispanic businesses increasing at three times the national average.”

There are 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. – 13 percent of those are small firms. Last year more than 9,000 Hispanic-owned small businesses got nearly $1.4 billion in working capital through the 7(a), 504 and microloan lending programs creating 42,000 jobs in their communities.

Kerry has been a leader in promoting legislation and policies that level the playing field for small and minority-owned businesses, such as reducing contract bundling, overseeing large firms’ subcontracting plans, increasing Procurement Center Representatives in the field, increasing access to capital, and funding key counseling and technical assistance programs. To help small business owners gain access to affordable broadband across the country, Kerry sponsored the Wireless Innovation Act with Sen. George Allen (R-Va.).

“Investing in American innovation and business development is the cornerstone of long-term economic advancement in minority communities,” Kerry said. “We can and must be doing more to foster entrepreneurship in the Latino community. I am working with business leaders around the country to make sure all small firms get their fair share of federal contracts, capital to build and grow their businesses, and expanded access to technology like high-speed internet. We can also work together on realistic, comprehensive immigration reform that recognizes the value that immigrants provide to our communities and businesses.

“Every small business deserves a fair chance to succeed. The Hispanic-owned firms throughout our nation have increased our economic strength by $222 billion. I am committed to helping these firms continue to grow, create jobs, promote the development and use of innovative technologies, and add to the long-term growth of our economy.”