News Column

Hispanic Population Swells in Bowling Green Region

June 21, 2013

Robyn L. Minor

The Hispanic population in the Barren River region grew 9.57 percent from the 2010 census through July 2012, according to statistics released this week.

The biggest percentage jump was registered in Butler County, where the Hispanic population was believed to have increased more than 30 percent to a still relatively small number of 420 people. More than 61 percent of Hispanics there are men, likely there to work at nearby Perdue Farms in Ohio County.

"I think probably 80 percent of the (Hispanics) work at Perdue," Butler County Judge-Executive David Fields said.

The poultry plant in Cromwell employs about 1,500 people.

While county government has not really done anything special because of the increase in Hispanics, many churches in the county have added Hispanic ministries, Fields said.

The Hispanic community has been able to connect with what government services are available to them, he said.

"They are just hard-working people," Fields said.

Not surprisingly, the region's largest concentration of people with Hispanic ethnicity is in Warren County, which saw an increase of 10.3 percent to 5,709. Some churches have responded to the increase in the Hispanic population, either by establishing fully Hispanic churches or by offering Hispanic services or ministries.

The city of Bowling Green in 2012 hired Leyda Becker as full-time community services specialist/international communities liaison. The growing Hispanic population was the main reason the city added the position, Becker said.

"They wanted someone who is fluent in Spanish and English," she said. "That is the predominant language of the international community."

The city has translation services and a language line it can use for other languages.

"I know that in the 2010 census, 6.5 percent of the total foreign-born population was Hispanic," Becker said. "We always felt that the census numbers were under-represented because Hispanics can be of any race."

Becker said her position helps ensure all residents have access to city services and other resources, regardless of their background. Because of her job, Becker has partnered with WKCT radio to start the community's first Spanish-only program.

La Nuestra is a variety show, hosted and produced by Hispanics, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

"I host a segment where we feature city services and community information," Becker said. "I've really seen a connection with the radio show and people accessing services. It also has given businesses a chance to advertise (to the Hispanic community)."

Becker also facilitates the Amigos Resource Network that has monthly meetings where people, groups or agencies can bring information they want to disseminate to the Hispanic community, and other Hispanics can come and network with one another. This month's meeting will be at 3 p.m. June 25 at Community Action of Southern Kentucky. The focus of the meeting will be the migrant Head Start program. Becker also has started an e-newsletter that has about 130 subscribers.

"People can send me information in English, and I will translate it into Spanish," she said. "The number of people inquiring about city services has increased drastically since this position was established."

In addition to the increase in the Hispanic population, the median age for residents in the region also is edging up. Warren County is the exception because of the influx every year of new young adults going to Western Kentucky University. The median age here is 32.8, compared to 40 or more in the rest of the region. Warren County's largest population segment, which was the 20- to 24-year-old group, was estimated at 13,994.

Three counties have aging populations of 65 and older who are barely being replaced by the number of people who are under 18. In Edmonson, Monroe and Metcalfe counties, the number of people in those two groups is nearly equal, meaning what?

"Well it really means more than people think," said Ron Crouch, former state demographer.

Crouch showed Edmonson County as an example: In 1980, there were 429 10- to 14-year-old males. That number has declined each census since then to 421 to 413 and then to 388 in 2010. At the same time, men ages 65-69 grew from 207 in 1980 to 360 in 2010.

"And that trend is only going to continue as boomers age over the next 20 years," Crouch said. "You are no longer going to have a population pyramid where there are more young people at the bottom."

It means that there will be fewer young people working to support an aging population and that businesses and services, including health care, will need to take into account that aging population. People are living longer and for the first time "there are more non-Hispanic deaths than there are white births," Crouch said.

-- For more information about Bowling Green's liaison services, email leyda.becker@bgky.org.

-- Robyn L. Minor covers business, environment, transportation and other issues for the Daily News. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/bowserminor or visit bgdailynews.com.

Credit: By ROBYN L. MINOR The Daily News rminor@bgdailynews.com /783-3249





Source: Copyright Daily News (Bowling Green, KY)