The president of the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Luis...

The president of the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Luis Vazquez. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Minority owners of small businesses on Long Island said they need greater assistance in accessing financing and applying for government programs that would help them grow, according to a new survey of firm owners.

The survey, conducted by Long Island University’s Steven S. Hornstein Center for Policy, Polling, and Analysis, gathered responses from 176 small business owners in industries ranging from retail to finance to construction in the last quarter of 2023.

The Long Island Association, Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce partnered on the survey as part of an effort to promote more equitable economic growth on the Island.

“We felt it was important to work with the LIA as well as the African American and Hispanic chambers of commerce here on Long Island to make sure that the views, opinions and concerns of small and minority businesses are recognized and heard,” Kimberly R. Cline, president of Long Island University said in a statement.

Surveyed business owners highlighted several challenges they face, including access to capital and expanding their businesses. Among the support most requested by respondents was more networking opportunities, 53%; assistance with marketing, 40%; and help with applying for grants and loans, 39%.

“Running a small business is hard because you live day-by-day or week-by-week and it’s hard when you want to be able to expand,” said Luis Vazquez, president of the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Vazquez said small business owners are often too preoccupied keeping their businesses afloat to take advantage of programs or resources that would help them grow.

“There’s a lack of awareness and lack of information out there to let our communities know what’s out there,” he said. “When you open a business there’s not a road map.”

Of respondents, over half of whom were women or racial and ethnic minorities, 32% said they had a Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise certification. MWBE certifications can often help businesses land federal, state, or local government contracts that would otherwise be difficult to get.

MWBE certified businesses must have 51% of their ownership be held by an individual from a racial or ethnic minority group, or an owner who is a woman. Additional requirements put limits on the total number of employees a business can have — 300 — and the total net worth a controlling business owner has.

Despite the challenges cited in the report, respondents said they felt confident in their own businesses’ performance, with 51% saying their firms were doing better today than a year ago. However, 21% of respondents said they felt the overall economy was in a better position over the same period.

“The goal is to take this survey and use it to help inform the LIA and policymakers in our attempts to come up with solutions to help make small business be able to have the tools to be more successful,” said Matt Cohen, chief executive and president of the LIA.

“We want minority owned business to be successful,” Cohen said. 

The results of the survey will be formally unveiled at a joint meeting of the LIA and the chambers of commerce Friday in Melville.

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