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U.S. Newswire/ -- The U.S. Census Bureau is asking thousands of Hispanics who are business owners or self- employed persons to set aside a few minutes to participate in an important survey that is part of the 2002 Economic Census. The information they provide will help shape federal, state and local governments' business-assistance programs.

Beginning May 6, selected businesses will receive the 2002 Survey of Business Owners (SBO). Answers to the questions in the survey are, by federal law, confidential. The survey is taken every five years.

"This survey is part of the 2002 Economic Census, which describes the economy from the national to the local level," said Louis Kincannon, Census Bureau director. "It also helps shape the way we, as a country, do business."

"The information from this survey will highlight the importance of small businesses to the U.S. economy and, more importantly, show the diversity of small business owners," said Hector Barreto, administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA). "For instance, economists at our Office of Advocacy will use these data to prepare reports on the traits of small business owners, including gender, ethnicity and veteran status. Such research is vital for sound public policy."

In addition to collecting the gender, race and ethnic background of business owners, the survey features new questions about the age, education, veteran status and primary business functions of the business owners. Other new questions ask when the business was started, sources of equity capital for start-up or acquisition and types of customers and employees. Also new are questions about home-based businesses, family-owned businesses and franchises.

The SBA, the Minority Business Development Agency and other agencies will use the data to allocate resources for their business-promotion programs. Private firms, economic development organizations and individuals use the findings to evaluate industries and markets. Information gathered during the economic census also is used by researchers and academics.

Business owners have 30 days to complete and return the forms. Starting May 7, survey respondents may obtain assistance via a toll-free number, 800-233-6132, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. EDT, Monday through Friday. They also may access an Internet help page http://help.econ.census.gov/econhelp/sbo/ .

The Census Bureau will combine survey data with data from other economic census programs and administrative records to produce comprehensive data on receipts, employment, payroll, kind of business and location, by race, ethnicity and gender of business owners. The first reports from the survey are scheduled to be released in mid-2005.

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