Lehigh University’s Small Business Development Center will graduate 19 Latino entrepreneurs tonight.
Graduation is set for 6 p.m. at Bethlehem City Town Hall for the people who participated in the "Business Skills for Success for Latino Entrepreneurs" program.
The eight-week series, which is presented in Spanish, helps participants develop their business concept and teaches them the skills and knowledge required for business success.
The center has run 14 such seminars around the state since the program began in 2007.
Organizers boasted that 84 percent of the participants who launched businesses were still operating after a year, a positive contrast to the national trend where 80 percent of new businesses fail in their first 12 months.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Pennsylvania's Hispanic population soared 83 percent in the last 10 years. Today, 42.8 percent of the population in Allentown, 24.4 percent in Bethlehem and 20 percent in Easton are of Hispanic origin.
The bureau also reported that the number of Latino-owned firms nationally increased more than 30 percent between 1997 and 2002, which is more than triple the growth recorded for all U.S. businesses.
In Pennsylvania, the number grew by 40 percent.
The graduation ceremony will also be the space for the Business Pitch Awards, sponsored by Morgan Stanley. The participant entrepreneurs presented their business plans to a panel of judges that chose the best pitches and will award cash prizes to the winners during this event.