March 30, 2011 | WRDW | Original Article

Local Hispanic population growth outpaces state, nation

It's a trend around the country: the Hispanic or Latino, population is growing. The 2010 Census numbers show a 43 percent increase nationwide since 2000. Those numbers are even higher in Georgia and South Carolina.

Our big three counties, Aiken, Richmond and Columbia, each saw their Hispanic populations jump, and jump quickly. They're numbers that have a lot of people paying attention.

You may have noticed more and more stores with Spanish names here and there over the last decade. According to the 2010 Census, that's because the Hispanic population is growing all across the U.S., but specifically here in our neck of the woods.

"It opens your eyes to how large the community is here," says Enrique Romero, the Advertising Director for Eco Latino.

Enrique works with one of the local Spanish-speaking magazines. He says there's a misunderstanding when it comes to his Hispanic people.

"Unfortunately you get the stereotypes that they're migrant workers and if you're Hispanic you're automatically Mexican," explains Enrique.

Enrique says over the years nearby communities have been appealing to many Hispanics.

"You find Hispanic-friendly communities already in place," says Enrique.

"Certainly in Columbia County there is an established Hispanic population and they're coming here to work," adds Columbia County Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson.

And Columbia County has seen the biggest jump of all. The three biggest counties in the area all saw increases, but Columbia County saw it's Hispanic or Latino population jump 167 percent.

"We didn't really expect that. We knew that we had a large Hispanic population in Columbia County but when the numbers came out and confirmed exactly what those numbers were, we were pleasantly surprised by that as well," says Johnson.

And most of that growth, is focused in the city limits of Grovetown. Hispanics make up 13.8 percent of the people, with a jump topping 176 percent.

Enrique says they're numbers that ultimately affect your bottom line, "You take away that Hispanic dollar that's spent and a lot of these cities would be in a lot of trouble."

Certain local businesses say they have made changes to meet the needs of the growing population. For instance, most of the local Goodwill Job Connections already have Bi-lingual staff on hand to help with jobs.

We also found out the new Grovetown YMCA will focus efforts on reaching the Hispanic families in the area.