Latinomics, Good or Bad?

Latinomics, Good or Bad?

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Latinomics, Good or Bad?

     What are the effects of the Latino and Hispanic population on the economics of Kentucky? According to Olsen if the Hispanic population were a city, it would be the third-largest and fastest growing city in the state. The U. S. Census Bureau reports that the Hispanic population of Kentucky was 21,984 in 1990 and almost 60,000 in the year of 2000. These figures do not take into account the undocumented immigrants which are estimated by the government at over 100,000. Based on these figures, the estimates seem low. I would venture to say that in the state of Kentucky there could be as many as 140,000 to 160,000 Latinos and Hispanics combined. Just look at the number of Hispanic children being born in the local hospitals. The article states that twenty-nine percent of the births last year at Jewish Hospital in Shelbyville were Hispanic babies. Just imagine what the figures must be in the Lexington hospitals.
Some of the benefits of this new immigrant population are workers with an honest work ethic and they are not afraid of a hard day’s work for a fair wage. As the article states, they are not taking jobs away from locals, they are filling a void that cannot be met by the local labor force due to the lack of persons willing to perform the jobs. The agriculture and horse industries have benefited immensely from the labor of these immigrant workers, both male and female. It takes a lot of manual labor to harvest the crops and make all the farms look so pristine.
In central Kentucky we are experiencing a major housing boom and the immigrant population has stepped up to plate by providing the manpower and specific skills needed to build houses at the rate of demand that we expect. Along with this comes the satisfaction that they are helping to build the future of the community. They take pride in the fact that in fifty or one hundred years, the houses that they helped to build will still be standing for the next generation. One local builder states that he has six immigrant workers because he cannot find the help he needs locally and two of them have been with him for more than five years and one for close to ten years. He pays all of them above average wages and provides them with housing, medical care, and other benefits.

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Hotels, motels, food chains and retail stores are also experiencing enormous numbers of immigrant workers. They are honest and dependable and always show up for work when they are supposed too. They learn English quickly in order to perform their jobs.
Manufacturing is another area that has benefited from the immigrant population due to the expansion of several plants and the lack of entry level workers to fill their needs, company’s contract with local employment agencies to fill temporary or long term assignments with immigrant workers. As a result of this, several employment agencies that deal specifically with the immigrant population have been formed to keep up with the demand for these types of workers.
At this time, let me point out the fact that immigrant workers are very smart, if they do not already possess the skills needed for the job, you only have to show them a few times and they will catch right on to what they need to do in order to accomplish the task. Language is very seldom a hindrance to them.
Immigrant entrepreneurs meet the needs of this growing population by providing services and goods not offered in the local community. Translation services are often needed for medical or business purposes. Hispanic grocery stores provide food, products and movies in Spanish not available at the local Kroger or Wal-Mart. Restaurants provide authentic cuisine and socialization with fellow Hispanics and Latinos. Some groups have even formed their own recreation leagues for soccer.
This has in turn created a new market segment that has money to spend. As the article states, if businesses are not willing to have bilingual persons in order to help the immigrant population, they will not do business with them. Based on my own experience working for a local insurance agency, I saw first hand the loyalty of the Hispanic population in doing business with companies that met their needs. My job was to explain the requirements of the law pertaining to auto insurance and then inform them as to what the price was for the insurance required. If they were satisfied and their needs met, they would send all of their family and friends over to purchase insurance as well.
A large portion of the money they earn is sent back to their home countries in order to help their families there so all the money that would normally go right back into the local economy is not put back in. What money that is left here to spend, local communities need to figure out ways to recoup that money. This can only be done if we embrace the immigrant population and try to make them a part of the local community. One way this can be done is through the local school community by making them as parents a very important part of their child’s education and future. There has to be a willingness on the school’s part to incorporate the immigrant population into the mainstream of the school by prominently encouraging their participation on committees and getting their input on issues facing the school.
Another way to encourage them is to make available affordable housing so that they will feel the urge to become part of the community and settle down as a family and invest in the local community. They need to be able to transplant their family to a new community and feel like they are a part of that community. The first generation needs to be able to establish roots in order to see their children and grandchildren grow up in a community that they can call their own. They need to become part of the framework for the future generations.
By educating the immigrant population in language, investments, business, and general knowledge they will become empowered citizens of the community. Citizens of the community also need multilingual and multicultural education as well in order to understand the diversity that their communities are experiencing. Together they will all become part of the local customs and culture. They will put their money in the local banks and take out loans to purchase everything from cars to houses. They will open their own businesses and strive to make a difference for the community they live in and are part of. When all of this happens, the local economy will benefit because money will be shifted back into the local economy. Kentucky can learn from the successes and pitfalls of California, Texas and Florida in accepting the immigrant population.


Olsen, Andy, The Lane Report, August 2004

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