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Julio Fuentes: Small business is big business in Florida

Small business is big business in Florida. At least according to the Florida SBDC State of Small Business Report, which finds that the Sunshine State is home to 2.5 million small businesses, employs more than 40 percent of the state’s private-sector workforce, and contributes to nearly 44 percent of the state GDP. Florida is the third most populous state in the United States, boosting the fourth largest state economy in the country, at $1.1 trillion.

Looking across the nation, the U.S. Small Business Administration echoes this reporting that small businesses are an essential part of Florida’s economic landscape, making up 99.8% of all Florida businesses and employing 3.6 million employees. In fact, Hispanic-owned businesses account for 30.9 percent of the state’s overall small businesses. 

Technology and innovation play a vital role in the success of Florida’s small businesses and economic growth, especially during the global pandemic, giving co-workers the ability to stay connected and businesses the opportunity to operate online and reach new customers. 

Hispanic small business owners were among the hardest hit by the pandemic. In March of 2020, while many small business owners’ physical doors were closing, technology was a lifeline that kept them connected. Business owners were forced to find new ways to connect with vendors, clients, and colleagues. Thus began the growth of the remote workforce. Floridians learned how to connect with team members on message boards, use project management solutions, and brainstorm using smart boards. 

Technology and innovation go far beyond Silicon Valley, and as a regional hub for innovation, Florida has a vibrant start-up economy which has established 2.5 million small businesses in the state. For many small businesses, technology has opened up a new market online, allowing retailers to connect with their customers via e-mail, through blogs, social networks, and forums. Without the ability to leverage these digital marketing tools, the economic toll on our businesses could have been devastating.  

Earlier this year, an online retail tech website reported cybercriminals have targeted the retail sector with a 264 percent surge in ransomware attacks on e-commerce and online retailers in the past 12 months. While these digital trends emphasize the fact that America’s tech and e-commerce sectors are a significant asset to keeping small businesses open and growing, they also heighten the threat to cyber security for both sellers and consumers. It's imperative that our elected leaders work to pass legislation focused on supporting the recovery of Florida’s economy and reject any proposal that would hamstring innovation and put small businesses at risk for cyberattacks. 

Julio Fuentes is president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, representing more than 604,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in Florida that contribute more than $90 billion to our state economy annually