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Census data shows rapid growth of Hispanic community in Polk County

Many rich Hispanic and Latino cultures are present in Polk county, changing the business landscape.

LAKELAND, Fla. — Many people are moving to Tampa Bay from across the country. 

One area of Tampa Bay that's seeing the most growth is Polk County, especially when it comes to the Hispanic and Latino population.

According to the most recent census data from 2020, Hispanic and Latino people made up about 27 percent of the population in Polk County. 

That's up from 17 percent in 2010. Many say Polk County has become a destination for several families because of the wide variety of Spanish-speaking businesses in the area, as well as the proximity to major city centers like Tampa and Orlando.

"When I first moved here, we just had a couple of stores and restaurants, maybe one Cuban-American style bodega," explained Ana Rivera, the president of the Puerto Rican Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Polk County. 

She says now there are restaurants, stores, legal offices, car dealerships and medical offices opened by Hispanic and Latino families that have moved to the area.

The variety of Hispanic and Latino cultures in Polk County is wide-ranging but come together to create a robust community of Spanish-speakers.

One business that creates familiarity for the Hispanic community in the area is Precious Moments. 

The 3D ultrasound clinic provides imaging of babies as well as diagnostic imaging. 

The clinic offers a great alternative for patients without health insurance, or health insurance with high premiums, to access ultrasound services at a reasonable out-of-pocket cost. 

Precious Moments is owned by Maryann Marte and Pamela Gutierrez, who opened the clinic for many reasons, but one big reason was to create a welcoming medical environment for Spanish-speakers to ask questions and receive answers in their native language. 

"Sometimes I answer the phone and people will ask, '¿Hablas español?' and then we'll just start speaking Spanish and it makes people feel a lot more comfortable asking questions," explained Marte.

"It makes me feel so happy that I can talk to them in Spanish and tell them what's going on, mainly in a diagnostic situation where they may be more scared or not understand exactly what's going on," said Gutierrez.

It's businesses like these that attract many to move to the area, explained Rivera, "It's a great place to raise children and literally invest in the community." 

She says many families see opportunities to open their own businesses in the area to further serve the Hispanic and Latino communities, making the decision to move to Polk County easy.

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