Latino Spending Power on the Rise in Harris County

It's a good problem to have, millions of potential customers from a segment of the population that has traditionally been ignored by big business. It's no longer a secret that Latinos here in the US have a lot of spending power, nearly a trillion dollars a year.
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 for businesses that adapt to change.

"There are more Hispanics than Anglos in Harris County, Texas today. 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 a Houston institution in the 21st century. It's a remarkable moment of Historical transition. Smart companies, every business understands you either figure out a way to capitalize on the growing diversity or you find it harder and harder to grow your business."

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

"You can see the real estate business all of a sudden realizing that Latino home-buyers are a significant segment of that consumer base. Upscale products, whether they be Cadillacs or Infinities know that Latinos are buying cars that are not low-end. It's a natural market development that the growth of the consumer power is going to change these companies around."

Dr. Laura Murillo is president and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and says she's seen a change in how businesses treat Latino customers.

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

Jeff Moseley is president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership. He says Houston would be wise to adapt to the new marketplace.

"We owe it to ourselves to really understand the dynamics of 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's not conjecture, it's beyond that. So how do we best embrace that?"

Latino's make up about 38-percent of Harris County's population.
Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...