Scott G Winterton, KSL

Immigrants boosting Utah's economy, experts say

By Jasen Lee, KSL | Posted - Feb. 26, 2019 at 9:09 p.m.

8 photos

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SALT LAKE CITY — Newly released survey data shows that over 60 percent of Utahns believe the economic impact of Hispanic-owned businesses in the state is "very positive" or "somewhat positive."

With the state's immigrant population on the rise, one local entrepreneur thinks that positive sentiment is helping to fuel growth in the state's overall economy.

Jorge Fierro, owner of Salt Lake City-based Frida Bistro and Rico Brands, said the immigrant economy is growing in Utah and becoming an important component of the Beehive State's economic success.

"The economy is forcing people who were comfortable working for a good company to now go out of their way to start their own company so they can really do what they came to America to do, which is to be successful," he said.

The veteran business owner said people working for him have branched out to launch their own endeavors, which is something he fully understands and supports.

"We're going to continue to experience growth of new businesses and new services provided by minorities and Latinos," Fierro said. "The rate of business (success) is (historically) really low, but because of the economy, the rates are going to increase slightly."

He said that as a state, Utah does a lot to support immigrants and minorities in their efforts to become entrepreneurs, which bodes well for those willing to put forth the effort to create their own "American dream."

Jorge Fierro, owner of Rico Brand products, talks with daughter Mia Fierro, right, and Mia's friend Kimberly Reyes at his distribution facility and restaurant in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, KSL)

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index for February showed that more than two-thirds of respondents "strongly agree" or "somewhat agree" that immigrants positively contribute to the Utah economy. Over 70 percent of Utahns said they would likely support Hispanic-owned businesses, the survey stated, while 84 percent of respondents said they would shop at a Latino business over the course of a year.

The survey showed that consumer confidence in the state registered at 113.8 in February — virtually the same as the prior month. In comparison, the national Consumer Confidence Index increased 9.7 points to register at 131.4 this month.

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index is based on a representative sample of 500 Utah households taken during a monthly survey conducted by Cicero Group, with a confidence interval of plus or minus 4.38 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. The information collected is compared to both Utah Consumer Attitude Index data and U.S. data from previous months to identify key consumer sentiment trends statewide.

We are creating jobs, we are creating products and services. We are in the land of opportunity — the beautiful state of Utah.

–Jorge Fierro

In Utah, Latinos make up the largest immigrant population at 17 percent, said Alex Guzman, president and CEO of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Speaking Tuesday at a news conference, he noted that Hispanics represent more than 400,000 people and 110,000 households statewide, with many choosing to start their own ventures.

"In the state of Utah, it's very easy, simple and friendly to be a business owner," he said. "There a little bit more than 15,000 business owners that label themselves as Hispanic at the Utah Department of Commerce."

Guzman added that number is likely larger since not every Latino registers their business under their ethnic status. He estimated that Hispanic businesses infuse $9.4 billion into the state economy annually.

"We are creating jobs, we are creating products and services," he said. "We are in the land of opportunity — the beautiful state of Utah."

Jorge Fierro, owner of Rico Brand products, checks on an order as he shows off his distribution facility and restaurant in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, KSL)

He said that currently Hispanics make up approximately 10 percent of all businesses statewide and that percentage could double over the next decade. He identified the five major industries where Hispanic entrepreneurs frequently establish their businesses as food, construction, professional services, temporary services, along with residential and commercial cleaning.

Meanwhile, Chad Berbert, principal with Cicero Group, said that economically speaking, the state is strong and poised for continued growth in the near term.

Randy Shumway, chairman and partner of Cicero Group, agreed.

“We continue to see strong economic indicators in Utah even as consumer perceptions temper somewhat,” Shumway said. “Utahns have seen a robust local economy for multiple years now, and while anticipation has tempered, job and income growth remain strong and these two factors will continue to drive consumer spending in the state.”


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