In 2000, the 35.3 million Hispanics in the United States represented 12.5 percent of the nation's population, a nearly 60-percent increase from 1990.

The Hispanic population continues to be concentrated in the Southwest and Northeast; however, between 1990 and 2000, there was significant Hispanic population growth in states not traditionally associated with Hispanic communities, such as Arkansas, Iowa, and Mississippi. Arkansas, for example, saw a 344-percent increase in its Hispanic population.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2003, workers of Hispanic origin represented 20.3 percent of the construction industry workforce. In just six years, Hispanics will be the single largest population group in the prospective construction labor pool. Attracting and retaining Hispanic workers will become more and more important as the whole United States population ages. Retiring workers will need to be replaced with young blood.

Comfort Climate Controls co-owners Mark and Connie Ramirez go over some details in their office. The Ramirezes know the importance of hiring bilingual front-office staff and installers. Said Connie, “Every one of our crews has at least one person who speaks Spanish.”

U.S. Hispanic Stats

Here are some U.S. Census Bureau statistics on the U.S. Hispanic population growth:

  • The number of Hispanics living in the United States has increased almost 60 percent since 1990.

  • Half of all Hispanics live in just two states: California and Texas.

  • The largest percentage in-creases in Hispanic population growth occurred in the South.

  • Three states accounted for half of the Hispanic population growth: California, Texas, and Florida.

  • Hispanics account for 42 percent of the total population of New Mexico, the highest percentage of any state.

  • The top-five Hispanic metropolitan markets - Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco - account for 42 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population.

  • Between April 2000 and July 2002, the Hispanic population grew 9.8 percent, whereas the rate of growth for the United States population as a whole was 2.5 percent.

  • The median age of the Hispanic population is almost 10 years less than that of the overall United States population.

  • One in three Hispanics is under age 18.

    Bilingual Workers

    Connie Ramirez and her husband Mark own Comfort Climate Control in Azusa, Calif. They know the importance of hiring bilingual front-office staff and installers.

    "Every one of our crews has at least one person who speaks Spanish," she said. "Out of our 15 workers, only two of our technicians don't speak Spanish."

    Ramirez said having a bilingual workforce "helps our business every day and helps it a lot. We're able to address customer concerns and answer their questions in Spanish, if need be. This really helps in the closing because it makes them feel comfortable giving their business to us."

    Here are the top 10 states by Hispanic population. Leading the way is California. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau.)

    Since the 1990 census, the number of Hispanics has increased by 60 percent nationwide, with California leading in population growth. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau.)

    Not everyone who is Hispanic, however, speaks Spanish, just as everyone of German descent does not speak German. Terry Francisco, who, along with his wife Rosa, owns Western Equipment Services in Lancaster, Calif., said one of his three sales reps is Hispanic, "but he only speaks English."

    Yet, Francisco said he wishes everyone at Western Equipment were bilingual.

    "The installation crew is primarily Spanish-speaking," he said. "So is the receptionist, the office manager, and the general manager. Of the 18 people working here, about half speak Spanish."

    He said this has "absolutely helped with business."

    On countless occasions, a service technician has called into the office, asking the receptionist or office manager to translate over the phone with a customer.

    Francisco said he does not have "a policy to encourage others to pick up the language, but that sounds like a good idea!"

    ¿Habla Espanol?

    Placing bilingual ads in Spanish-language newspapers, or airing commercials on Spanish-language channels, won't do much for your business if none of your workers speak Spanish when potential customers call. There's no getting around it: If you want to attract and retain Hispanic customers, you need to learn the lingo.

    Here are some helpful suggestions:

  • Check out community colleges in your area that offer Spanish classes, often in the evenings.

  • Take a "speed Spanish" course for travelers or business people.

  • Look into an onsite professional language course, custom-designed to fit your particular needs.

  • Reinforce what you learn in formal classes with instructional CDs that you can listen to as you commute or drive from job to job.

  • Listen to Spanish-language radio and TV to become comfortable with how the language is spoken in everyday life.

  • Take your next vacation in a Spanish-speaking country.

  • Practice your new language skills with Spanish-speaking co-workers, friends, neighbors - and eventually clients.

    Hispanics accounted for almost 40 percent of the United States population growth between 1990 and 2000. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau.)

    Marketing To Hispanics

    With an estimated $653 billion in annual buying power, Hispanics' disposable income is growing at a rate of 9 percent a year. At least 26 percent of full-time, year-round Hispanic workers made $35,000 or more in 2001, and 12 percent made $50,000 or more.

    Surely some of that money is going into HVAC systems for their residences and businesses. Are you putting yourself in a position to attract those dollars?

    Melissa Carrasco and her husband Rene own Absolute Air in Corpus Christi, Texas. She said 35 percent of their customers are Hispanic. Though language barriers still exist, she said, "They're not as much of a problem as they used to be. Most Hispanic households now have at least a son or daughter who can translate.

    "A couple of weeks ago, however, we encountered a situation in which both the husband and wife only spoke Spanish. I was able to answer their questions in Spanish. I'm sure we got the job because of this."

    Carrasco said she asks prospective employees if they speak Spanish, "but I don't require it."

    Beyond bridging the language gap, Absolute Air goes one step further in attracting Hispanic customers: placing Spanish-language ads on the local cable station.

    Carrasco said that their approach has been to treat Hispanics "as any other market. We stress family values and quality, just as we do in English ads. It's not a different sales pitch. There's a high end, a low end, a middle class. Treat them, not as a foreign population, but as part of the total market."

    The Ramirezes, however, admitted to doing "a really bad job" of marketing to Hispanics.

    "Though this area is heavily Hispanic, there aren't a lot of avenues yet for getting your message out," said Connie Ramirez. "The Yellow Pages just started a Spanish-language section, but it's so new that it really hasn't caught on yet."

    Like Ramirez, James Flores, who owns AH Flores Heating and Air Conditioning in North Hollywood, Calif., said he doesn't target Hispanics.

    "A lot of people call, though, and prefer to speak to me in Spanish," he said.

    Flores' advice to those who would like to attract Hispanic business is simple and direct: "Learn Spanish! Otherwise, it's as if a Japanese salesperson who doesn't speak English were trying to sell me a car. I might know it's a good product, but I wouldn't buy it because I wouldn't feel comfortable.

    "That's what it's all about - making the customer feel comfortable. If I give you money, I want to know you're someone I can trust. And if you can't communicate with me, how can I trust you?"

    Sidebar: Online Newsletter Tracks Hispanic Marketing Trends

    For the latest in Hispanic marketing trends, log onto Hispanic Marketing 101 at

    This weekly online newsletter is produced by the Latino Print Network, which works with companies to design ad campaigns for Hispanic publications in 39 states and Puerto Rico.

    Regular columns include book reviews and a nationwide calendar of events. A recent issue featured statistics on the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area in regards to Hispanic population, number of households, percent of total population, and rate of growth.

    A more comprehensive profile featured the greater San Diego area. Profiles of Hispanic publications, such as Dallas's Spanish-language weekly, El Hispano News, are standard fare.

    For those who want to explore marketing to Hispanics in greater depth, at least two major articles written by professionals in the field can be found in any given issue.

    Examples include "What it Takes to Win in our Nation's Capital," a five-part strategy to successful lobbying in Washington, and The Ramirez & Co. Hispanic Indexâ„¢, a means of assessing the viability and performance of major Hispanic firms.

    Perhaps best of all, the editor warmly welcomes suggestions as to how this can become a more useful publication for you, the business owner who is attempting to make inroads into the growing Hispanic market.

    - Heidi Nye

    Publication date: 08/23/2004