In 2000, there were 27,242 Hispanic residents of Hall County. As of July 1, 2007, the number was estimated at 46,807.
"That’s a remarkable growth rate," said Doug Bachtel, a demographics expert at the University of Georgia. "Population grows three ways, either you’re born, you die or you move. With a growth rate like that, the indication is the overwhelming majority of your growth is from people moving in."
According to the estimates, the county’s total population grew from 139,277 in 2000 to 180,175 in 2007, a 29 percent increase.
The president and chief executive of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, Kit Dunlap, said she was not surprised by the numbers and believes that the county is severely undercounted.
"I believe we’re already over 200,000 people, Dunlap said. "As for the number of Hispanic residents, there were estimates a few years ago of 60,000."
The Census estimate released today is from mid-2007, and there are already predictions that the number of Hispanics will be flat or go down. Some believe next year’s estimate will reflect both the drought and the residential building slump, which have resulted in less demand for Hispanic workers in landscaping and construction.
Frank Norton Jr., a real estate executive who monitors growth and economic trends, said he doesn’t give much credence to the Census numbers.
"When the Census counted 25,000 Hispanics in 2000, we estimated the true population was closer to 45,000 or 50,000," Norton said. "They’re just finally catching up to their miscount in 2000."
Norton predicts an indicator of current Hispanic population will come in the first attendance numbers from public schools in both Gainesville and Hall County.
Hall County school officials said they hired fewer new school teachers this year in anticipation of slower growth.
Bachtel agrees that schools are a good indicator of growth.
"With all that growth, the first institution to feel the pinch is the schools," he said.
Bachtel said that there are many misconceptions about the Hispanic population.
"All of the Hispanics in Hall County and Georgia are not undocumented or from Mexico. There are a significant number of Hispanics that are second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-generation Americans. Their parents came from Mexico generations ago," he said.
The Hispanic population in Gwinnett County grew to 83,398 during the same time period. The county’s total population was estimated at 646,313 in July 2007.
Forsyth County’s total population of 158,914 includes 12,832 Hispanics.
Hall County’s black population grew to 12,553 as of July 2007, up from 11,755 a year earlier. Since 2000, the number of black residents has grown by 2,243.
Bachtel said that while Hall County is a separate metro area, it feeds on the growth of metro Atlanta, which he said is the second-fastest growing metro area in the U.S., behind Los Angeles.