Salem's Hispanic economy grows

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Robin Doussard
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

By Robin Doussard

The number crunchers in the research division at the state’s employment department have come up with a very interesting snapshot of the growing Hispanic population in the Salem metro area, and its economic impact.

The Hispanic population in the area has grown to more than 85,000 from 2000-2010, a 58% increase. During the same period, the non-Hispanic population grew just 4.1%. In 2010, about one in five Hispanics in Oregon lived in the Salem metro area (which comprises Marion and Polk counties). In that decade, the Hispanic surge accounted for 72% of the total population growth in that area. In Oregon, Hispanics accounted for 43% of the total population growth.

As the population grows, so does its buying power and its business impact. In the Salem metro area, the report pegs the Hispanic purchasing power at $955 million, or about 11% of the total for the area. That compares to a 5.7% rate overall for Hispanic purchasing power in Oregon.

The workforce qualities are also interesting: 75% of the population is in the workforce, compared to 60% for non-Hispanics, and one-third of the workers are younger than 30. Contrary to some stereotypes, the Hispanic workforce is distributed across many sectors (see the charts below).

In 2007, there were 1,795 Hispanic-owned firms in the Salem area, with $194 million in sales, and employing 2,315 people. The report states that a majority of these businesses were self-employed firms.

Martin Kraal, a workforce analyst on the report along with Kim Thompson, says the 21% Hispanic population in Salem vs. the 11% statewide makes it “definitely an important population for business. It’s an important part of the economy for that area.”

And though the rate of Latinos living in poverty in Oregon is about 26% compared to an overall 13.4% for the state, it’s clear from this data that the trajectory for this population is upward as it gains education, experience, confidence — and acceptance.

Robin Doussard is the editor of Oregon Business.

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