NEW ORLEANS -- Ernesto Schweikert helps bring information to thousands of people every day in a language with which they're familiar. He's run the Spanish language radio station KGLA 1540 for years.
And after Hurricane Katrina,the Guatemala nativesaw another business opportunity, spurred by the growth of the hispanic community. He started upthe local Telemundo television station in 2007.
'After Katrina we saw a big surge of Latinos that came to New Orleans to rebuild the city, so that was a perfect fit,' said Schweikert.'And there was a need because once we came on the air, the whole community was really happy.'
Signs of a growing Latino influence are everywhere. Danny Cruz owns Pollos a las Brasas Fiesta, a latino restuarant that, over the past decade, has opened up several locations across the metro area.
The restaurant isnow just one of the many hispanic businesses that line Williams Boulevard in Kenner.
'You see so many places starting to pop up,' said Cruz. 'There were only three, four places that were here since I've been here, now you have everything, Brazilians that have moved in, Colombians that came over. There's a lot more variety in the people now.'
The latest census numbers confirm the Hispanic population is growing in metro area.
'We've had a significant growth in the Hispanic and Latino population in Jefferson Parish, also in St. Bernard Parish,' said GregRigamer, an Eyewitness News consultant, demographer and chief executive officer of GCRandAssociates.
Jefferson Parish has seen its Hispanic community more than double over the last 10 years, even while the overall population dropped slightly.
Rigamer believes the reason the Hispanic population in Jefferson Parish has increased to such an extent is that there was already an established Hispanic population before Katrina, so those who came in to help after Katrina naturally gravitated toward an area where businesses were alreadycarrying products they were used to.
'The mom and pops that were catering to the Hispanic community before Katrina, they saw an increase of business after Katrina,' said Schweikert.'They were doing two or three more times business with the Hispanic community than they were before Katrina.'
Hispanics now make up 12 percent of Jefferson Parish's population. In St. Bernard, 9 percent of the population is Hispanic. And in Orleans Parish, Hispanics account for at least 5 percent of the population.
And, Schwiekert said, the growing community also has increasing economic power.
'Now we are making more money, we're spending more money,' said Schweikert.'The Latinos are big contributors to the local economy.'