Latino Spending Power on the Rise in Harris County

As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, more and more business leaders are doing what they can to tap-into that potential gold mine. Once considered a population with very little spending power, Latinos have now emerged as the fastest-growing population in the United States. Rice University's Dr. Stephen Klineberg says here in Houston, those numbers mean big bucks forbusinesses that adapt to change.

"There are more Hispanics than Anglos in Harris County, Texastoday. They are the young people moving into making more money every year. The most under-served because every institution in Houston was built by, for and on behalf of Anglos. Every one of them has to transform themselves to become aHouston institution in the 21st century. It's a remarkablemoment of Historical transition. Smart companies, everybusiness understands you either figure out a way to capitalize on the growing diversity or you find it harder andharder to grow your business."

A new report by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute showsthe Latino economic landscape has changed drastically, with more and more Hispanics with substantial disposable incomes. Harry Pachon is the institute's president. He says bigbusiness is waking up.

"You can see the real estate business all of a sudden realizingthat Latino home-buyers are a significant segment of that consumer base. Upscale products, whether they be Cadillacsor Infinities know that Latinos are buying cars that are notlow-end. It's a natural market development that the growth ofthe consumer power is going to change these companiesaround."

Dr. Laura Murillo is president and CEO of the HoustonHispanic Chamber of Commerce and says she's seen a changein how businesses treat Latino customers.

"Ten years ago you might have a few people within a corporationwho were eager to get this message, but in a more behind the scenes type of a way. Now, we have sponsors in our chamber whoare saying help us with the message of immigration. Help us addressthis issue. Help us find a solution."

Jeff Moseley is president and CEO of the GreaterHouston Partnership. He says Houston would bewise to adapt to the new marketplace.

"We owe it to ourselves to really understand the dynamicsof what is a tsunami of opportunity for the marketplace and the Latino, Hispanic consumer is growing by leaps and bounds. It's a demographic trend that everyone can prove-up now. It'snot conjecture, it's beyond that. So how do we best embracethat?"

Latino's make up about 38-percent of Harris County'spopulation.
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