County’s Hispanic, Asian populations surge

Large increases in the Hispanic and Asian populations drove Bartholomew County’s total population growth during the past decade.

The county’s Hispanic population increased by more than 1,800 people, nearly 60 percent, and the Asian population grew by about 1,200 people, more than 50 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

The bureau’s latest American Community Survey five-year estimate, for 2010-14, also showed that Bartholomew County’s overall population increased about 4,000 people, more than 5 per-cent, when compared to the 2005-09 five-year estimate.

Growth in the Hispanic and Asian populations has been evident in multiple ways, such as an influx of workers for companies such as Cummins, small businesses opening, new church ministries and more community groups and events.

Making connections

Engage Columbus, a program that connects residents to information, resources and opportunities, receives requests for assistance regularly from the Hispanic and Asian populations, along with other ethnic groups, said Lara Hodson, program manager.“A lot come here and live for work, and many want to connect with local agencies. I direct a lot to the Chamber of Commerce and connect them to network groups,” Hodson said.For example, those network groups may include the Columbus Young Professionals, the Columbus Chinese Association or the Indian Association of Columbus, she said.

Columbus also has Latin American, Korean and Pakistan associations. The nine ethnic organizations that are part of the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization — which started in 2009 — share their cultures and traditions with the larger community, often through events they host.

Hodson said she also gets a lot of requests from the Hispanic community for English language resources because newcomers want to speak the language better.

Usually those requests go to McDowell Adult Education Center, but the demand is so great that Su Casa Columbus, which offers programs and services for the Hispanic population, has started an English as a Second Language class to help out, Hodson said.

“One of the things we think about is what can we do more to make the Latino community feel like Columbus, Indiana, is their home,” said Sylvia Babcock, Su Casa’s executive director.


Columbus is home to a variety of ethnic businesses, such as restaurants and groceries, including those representing the Asian and Hispanic populations.The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce doesn’t track small businesses by ethnicity, but chamber president Cindy Frey said anecdotal evidence shows that more Hispanic-owned small businesses are opening.“I see that in our entrepreneurial community. Some are different food vendors, car detail shops and some are little restaurants and clubs,” Frey said.

Frey said she would expect the trend to continue, with more small businesses sprouting up to meet demands from within the growing Hispanic community.

Church growth

At the Community Church of Columbus, its Chinese ministry started at the end of 2008 and its Hispanic ministry started in spring 2011, said Rodney Lucas, the church’s director of operations. Both ministries have their own pastors.The church’s Chinese ministry averages about 45 people at worship services, and the Hispanic ministry averages about 35, said Rev. Luke Erb, pastor of discipleship.Both ministries have regular Bible studies and small groups outside of Sunday morning worship services, said Rev. Chuck Coleman, senior pastor of the interdenominational church.

“We love both ministries and have seen a lot of fruit,” Coleman said.

St. Bartholomew Catholic Church’s Hispanic ministry has seen significant growth since it started in 2002. Its weekly Spanish-language mass at the time attracted 80 to 100 people, said Rev. Clem Davis. Since 2011, however, the weekly Spanish-language Mass has drawn 350 to 400 people, he said.

The fact that many Hispanic countries are heavily Catholic lends to them feeling comfortable at St. Bartholomew, Davis said. But outreach efforts within the Hispanic community also help attract newcomers, he said.

Members of St. Bartholomew’s Hispanic ministry connect with the larger community, too, such as supporting Love Chapel through food drives, Davis said.

Community resources

Here are examples of community resources that Bartholomew County’s growing ethnic populations use.

Engage Columbus

Purpose: To connect community members to the information, resources, opportunties and people that will make them feel welcome and engaged in the Columbus community.


Phone: 812-375-0708


Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization

Purpose: Its nine area ethnic associations share their cultures and traditions with each other and with the Columbus community. CAMEO is a point of access for information and programming that recognizes and celebrates the changing face of the community.


Phone, email: Contact information for each association can be found on their pages on the website.

Su Casa Columbus

Purpose: Provides programs, services and education to increase the self sufficiency of members of the Latino population and advocates cross-cultural interaction within the community.


Phone: 812-375-9370


Coming Tuesday

Enrollment of white students in Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. schools has dropped by about 800 students, or 8.4 percent, in the past 10 years. Find out what’s driving that trend in Tuesday’s Republic.

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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at or (812) 379-5639.