‘That’s your workforce’: Hispanic population growth boosts economy

By Megan Wehring

HAYS COUNTY — Hispanics make up 40% of the population in Hays County and that number continues to grow every year. 

As one of the fastest growing counties in the U.S., Hays County’s total population grew by more than 80,000 residents in the last decade to 241,067 in 2020, according to census data, and Hispanics account for 40.1% of that. 

“Hays County, Central Texas, is the go-to place where people want to be,” said J.R. Gonzales, executive vice chair of the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC), “with the advantage between right here on the I-35 corridor and being in-between Austin and San Antonio. The growth of this area [is phenomenal].”

Living in Hays County has become the answer for some, as it looks more promising to commute to and from Austin for work. 

“Since we have so many people moving into this area not only as residents, but also new businesses coming in, it’s great for growth,” Gonzales said. “But the effect of the economy has driven the housing market up [to the point]where it’s becoming more and more difficult for people to be able to afford rent or buy their own homes. As a result, Hays County and some of the more rural areas of Texas are growing due to the fact that Austin is just getting bigger and more unaffordable.”

More than 390,000 Hispanics are active in the labor force in the Austin metro area which makes up 30.7% of the total labor force, according to New American Economy research. In addition, Hispanics own 29.4% of small businesses in Texas, the Small Business Administration stated. 

“The purse, the Hispanic buying power or contribution to the economy, is continuing to grow,” Gonzales told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch. “It’s the highest ever. Without the Hispanic population actively working, our whole economy can implode.”

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Megan Navarro (Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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