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Indian-Owned Business Grew by 15 Percent

Despite the lengthy recession, the number of American Indian-owned businesses increased by 15 percent in the years between 2007 and 2012.
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Despite the lengthy recession, the number of American Indian-owned businesses increased by 15 percent in the years between 2007 and 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The number of Indian-owned businesses increased from 236,691 in 2007 to 272,919 in 2012, according to the Bureau, which does a nationwide business census every five years. Sales also increased at Native firms, by $4.5 billion, from $34.5 billion to $39 billion, or an average of $142,900 per firm.

As in the 2007 and previous business censuses, the profile of the typical Indian-owned firm slants heavily to being a single proprietor or a small business. Just under 10 percent of those 272,919 Native firms, 26,179, had employees in 2012.

The Census Bureau does not begin to release data from its surveys for several years after the business census, and then it does so in several releases over a series of months. The latest data release for the 2012 business census was on December 15.

Indian firms had a total payroll of $7 billion for the 2012 survey. The 208,000 employees of Native-owned firms were paid an average of $33,650 a year apiece. Each firm had an average of about eight employees.

Firms with employees had more than four times the sales of single proprietorships. Firms with workers generated $31.6 billion in sales, while those without managed just $7.2 billion in sales. That means that single owners averaged $29,200 in sales apiece.

Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders owned many fewer firms in 2012 than Indians, 54,749, and took in $8.1 billion in sales. That comes out to a slightly higher average sales figure than Indian firms, at $148,000 apiece.

Native Hawaiian firms, like Indian-owned ones, showed the same profile on sole proprietorship. Just 4,706 firms had employees, while more than 50,000 had single owners.

Native Hawaiian-owned firms employed 39,000 people in 2012, with a total payroll of $1.4 billion. That means the average each employee earned was about $36,000. Individual Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs did somewhat better than Indian proprietors, averaging about $32,000 apiece in sales.

The gender split on Indian owners tilted towards men, but not by much. Men owned more than 137,000 firms, while women owned 131,000. Women-owned firms made far fewer sales, though, making only a third of the male sales total at $9.1 billion.

Native Hawaiian women owned 25,000 companies, while men owned more than 28,000. Women also made considerably less in sales, just $1.9 billion to $6 billion by male-owned firms, or about a third.

Employees of male Native Hawaiian-owned companies earned about $40,500 apiece, more than employees at male Indian-owned firms, who made an average of $35,400. Employees of female-owned Native Hawaiian companies made about $32,000, while workers at Indian-woman-owned firms earned about $30,200 apiece.

The Census Bureau includes Alaska Natives in the American Indian category. The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders category includes indigenous people from other United States territories in the Pacific like Guam and American Samoa.