March 4, 2011 | Shreveport Times | Original Article

Hispanic population doubles in Bossier City

The number of Hispanic and Latino residents in Bossier City has more than doubled in the past decade, the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures show.

The city's Hispanic and Latino population increased to 4,955 in 2010, up from 2,232 in 2000.

"Most are moving here because of a job," said Carlos Meza, pastor of a Hispanic mission in Bossier City.

He said landscaping and construction jobs attract some Hispanics, but many have found new opportunities to open their own businesses in the city, which is something that is not always available in other areas.

Among those who have found that opportunity are Luis Orozco and Eda Rodriguez, who own the Hispanic meat market, El Novillo Carniceria, and its adjacent restaurant on Barksdale Boulevard. The couple also recently opened a Hispanic bakery on Benton Road.

Rodriguez arrived in Bossier City in 2003 to assist her father with his construction business. She said one of the things she immediately noticed was there were markets like in nearby Texas.

As she saw more and more Hispanics and Latinos move to the area, she thought the business would do well, and opened her market and restaurant last year. The business, which draws customers from as far as Ruston and Monroe, became such as success that she and Luis decided to open a bakery in December.

Most of the people who come through her store are in the construction business, she said.

Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker said the increasing number of residential subdivisions and retail shopping centers has created a significant amount of construction jobs and could account for so many Hispanics and Latinos moving to the city.

Marcial Avelar, who owns Avelar y Asociados, an Airline Drive tax and insurance firm catering to the local Hispanic community, said he has found the growth really started in the 1990s with the development of the casinos.

Their development created numerous construction jobs, which attracted Hispanics to the area, he said. Then, when the casinos opened, and service industry jobs became available, more Hispanics came.

Six years ago, Avelar, a resident of Marshall, Texas, got wind of the growth in Bossier City and opened a tax office that catered to Hispanics and Latinos. Being bilingual, Avelar could offer a new service to the growing community.

"A lot of them feel better speaking to someone who speaks the same language as they do, especially when it comes to discussing something as complicated as the IRS," he said.

While construction and service-related jobs continue to draw some Hispanics to the area, more and more are coming for oil- and gas-related work, said Guillermo "Willie" Ortiz, a local media representative who serves on the Hispanic Business Council.

He said a lot of them started by commuting from Texas during the week. But, as they developed relationships and got to know the area, they set down permanent roots.

The continued growth of the Hispanic population has significant economic benefits for Bossier City, said David Rockett, executive director of the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation.

The typically larger family size often found in their culture means more spending and potentially, as children grow up, an increased labor force, he said.

"It's a good option for our market here to add people with a good work ethic and who come from a good background," Rockett said. "I think Bossier will continue to gain from this population."