UT study: Tennessee's Hispanic population continues to grow

UT study: Tennessee's Hispanic population continues to grow

Posted:
Tennessee has the third-fastest growing Hispanic population in the country. Tennessee has the third-fastest growing Hispanic population in the country.
"When we first came here we would have never guessed that the Hispanic community was going to grow so much," Hola Hora Latina founder Coral Getino said. "When we first came here we would have never guessed that the Hispanic community was going to grow so much," Hola Hora Latina founder Coral Getino said.
"Every county in Tennessee has Hispanic residents," UT Center of Business and Economic Research Director Bill Fox said. "Every county in Tennessee has Hispanic residents," UT Center of Business and Economic Research Director Bill Fox said.

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A new study released by the University of Tennessee reveals the state's Hispanic community is growing.

Tennessee has the third-fastest growing Hispanic population in the country.

"Every county in Tennessee has Hispanic residents," UT Center of Business and Economic Research Director Bill Fox said. "We see the largest numbers, not surprisingly, in the biggest cities."

The study did not have exact numbers for each city, but in Knoxville the number of Hispanic businesses is on the rise.

In one shopping center off Downtown West Boulevard, there is a Hispanic grocery store, cell phone store, insurance agency, and bank.

Officials with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee say they currently have a couple hundred Hispanic businesses.

"Most of the areas in East Tennessee are growing rapidly," said Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee Chief Operating Officer Marilyn Cobble. "It's really good news because by far the number one thing right now is staffing. There's this great need for bilingual and diversity staffing, and companies contact me everyday for diversity in their staffing."

Census numbers show in 2000 the Hispanic population in the state was at 2.2 percent. By 2010, that number jumped to 4.6 percent. Those numbers are still way below the national average at 16.3 percent.

"When we first came here we would have never guessed that the Hispanic community was going to grow so much," Hola Hora Latina founder Coral Getino said.

Getino came to Knoxville from Spain in 1990. She started Hola Hora Latina 20 years ago to help people with their Spanish. The organization now helps educate others about the Hispanic culture.

Getino said she feels Hispanics are attracted to Tennessee by the climate and the kindness of the people. She said it is still very hard to come to the United States.

"No matter how many years you study English in your country, at the beginning, it's hard to get yourself understood, and also to understand the Tennessee accent," Getino said.

The UT study finds restructuring in the food processing industry has increased the demand for low-skill, low-wage workers has attracted many Hispanics to Tennessee as well.

Dr. Fox says the negative impact of the population growth on the local economy is small. The cost of additional public services exceeds tax revenue by "a small amount."

"On the other hand, if you're an average income or above average income resident of Tennessee, odds are you're economically better off by having an available and willing low wage workforce," he said.

The study also shows the importance of helping the younger Hispanic generation learn English.

"It's important we think about how these young people are connected to the education system," said Fox. "Their ability to learn, their ability to become formal parts of the labor force."

The full study is available online.

If you would like to learn more about the Hispanic community in Knoxville, the annual Hola Festival is coming up October 6 in downtown Knoxville.

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