Bruce has been responsible for strategic planning and research for the Bureau of Business Research since 1998.
For many Texans, the calamitous year 2020 will be remembered for the devastation unleashed across the state by COVID-19. The personal toll for those who have lost friends and family members to the virus is incalculable, and the damage to the Texas economy may be felt well into 2024. For others, 2020 will be remembered for the oil bust, hurricanes, and a tumultuous presidential election.
It would be easy to forget, amid all of the headline-grabbing events endured by Texans, that demographic change in our state rolls on. Texas remains one of the fastest growing states in the country, and according to analysis by the Texas Demographic Center, 86.4% of the population growth in Texas in the past decade is among minority groups, predominantly Hispanics. Hispanic population growth in every age cohort, except in the 65-and-older segment, dominates other groups by wide margins, meaning that the labor force will also become predominantly Hispanic in the years ahead.
The institute’s Bureau of Business Research (BBR) is focused on the implications of this demographic change on the state’s business climate. Just as diversity, equity, and inclusion are increasingly important corporate, educational, and social goals for communities, so is ensuring that economic development is shared among minority communities. The BBR has long studied the important contributions of minority-owned firms to the Texas economy. In 2011, BBR researchers collaborated with the Texas Association of Mexican-American Chambers of Commerce to publish findings from a survey of 3500 Hispanic-owned firms with employees in Texas. The BBR followed that in 2014 with a study of over 1,000 Black-owned firms in the state. Both studies highlighted the tendency of minority-owned firms to form at higher rates than other firms but grow more slowly, revealing a huge lost opportunity for Texas. Minority entrepreneurs also tend to keep their firms operating for longer than other entrepreneurs, which is a key predictor of entrepreneurial success. In 2017, the BBR contributed to the institute’s FASTForward program. Focused on accelerating minority- and women-owned small businesses in Austin, this program has helped dozens of firms find mentors and new markets to grow faster.
With the belief that local economic development needs to consider a broad cross-section of community priorities, BBR researchers have launched new research initiatives this year in small and rural communities across Texas. With help from students at University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB) in Odessa, we surveyed community members, not just economic development professionals, about their local economic priorities. Moreover, the BBR will help implement and study an expansion of FASTForward in the Midland/Odessa area next year in a partnership with Truist Bank, and UTPB that will include an interactive training program for women-owned and minority-led firms in West Texas. The emphasis will be on helping business owners gain insight into disruptive business opportunities, find market-fitted business strategies, and develop peer and community business mentor networks.
These new BBR research projects, focused on accelerating minority-owned business growth, have twin goals: to help Texas recover from the worst economic down turn in almost 100 years, but also to contribute to making the Texas economy more resilient and prosperous for all of its residents. Texas is an increasingly diverse state. All Texans should benefit economically from the talents and markets found in all corners of the state.
The IC2 Institute was established at The University of Texas at Austin in 1977, as a think-and-do tank to explore the broad economic, technological, and human factors that drive economic development in regions. Our mission is to better understand and catalyze communities outside major urban corridors to become more collaborative and resilient through a human-centered approach. The Bureau of Business Research, a unit of IC², aims to provide Texas business-people and policymakers with applied economic research and data to strengthen the state’s business environment.