- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2005

Verizon Wireless says it will add 200 bilingual Spanish-speaking employees to its Washington area staff.

“Offering Spanish language services … improves our ability to meet the needs of the region’s fastest growing population,” Ione Davis, Verizon Wireless’ human resources associate director, said this week.

The bilingual employees will work in customer service, sales and management.

About 14 percent of the population in the Washington area and the nation is Hispanic, comprising more than 39 million people, according to the 2000 U.S. census.

Marketing surveys show that 64 percent of Hispanics are “more inclined to purchase brands which are advertised in Spanish,” according to Fusion Multicultural, an Arlington advertising and marketing firm that serves primarily the Hispanic community.

In the Washington area, Spanish appears to be more important than most places because 90 percent of Hispanics are foreign-born. Their leading countries of origin include El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

They represent $15.4 billion in purchasing power in the Washington area, according to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth.

Although most Hispanics could conduct business in English, they commonly prefer Spanish, said Ana Maria Boitel, managing director of Fusion Multicultural.

“It’s about culture for us much more than it is about language,” Miss Boitel said. “Like everyone else, we just plain want to be counted.”

Among its clients, Fusion Multicultural is preparing an advertising and media campaign for Northside Auto Sales, a Manassas used car dealer with a customer base that is 70 percent Hispanic.

The company’s efforts to communicate in Spanish, which include a bilingual Web site, bilingual telephone messages and Spanish-speaking salesmen, have helped it expand over the last five years, said Kenny Loveless, Northside Auto Sales co-owner.

His dealership is located in a region with the highest concentration of Spanish-speaking residents in both Virginia and the Washington metropolitan area.

Hispanics make up 19 percent of the population in Arlington County, 15 percent of the city of Alexandria, 14.5 percent of Prince William County and 12 percent of Fairfax County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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