Blount County (WVLT) - Immigration numbers are exploding in East Tennessee...Recently released U.S. Census information is proving that.
Volunteer TV's Rob Pratt spent the day in one area county that's experiencing incredible growth, particularly in it's Hispanic population.
Blount County doesn't have the highest overall number of Hispanics, but the increase there over the last five years has been incredible.
We talked to one Maryville man who helped us understand why.
For more and more immigrants, the road leads to East Tennessee and to places like Blount County.
Hector Gomez traveled the same road two decades ago. Since he opened Los Amigos Restaurant in Maryville, he has employed dozens more. Why would so many from so far away want to come here?
Gomez says, "When I saw Blount County, I just fell in love. It's beauty, it reminds me of my hometown too."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, other counties have a reported Hispanic population percentage as high or higher. Hamblen has 9.3 percent, Sevier 1.8, Knox 1.7, and Anderson and Blount have 1.4 percent. That may not sound like a big number, but in Blount the Hispanic population grew 48 percent between 2000 and 2005.
Incoming director of schools Stephanie Thompson says, "It is a challenge."
A challenge that Thompson and the Maryville City System meet through providing special classes, such as English as a Second Language.
"They do a wonderful job. They have small class sizes. They have teachers who are English-Language Learning teachers and they they're certified, so they have a lot of staff development training that has been a wonderful support." Thompson says.
Hector Gomez also offers support, as do the many others who depend on the workforce that Hispanics provide. But many who move here for work will never enjoy the success that Gomez has found.
Gomez says, "I had my dreams, you know the famous American Dream, and you have to work for it. The dream's not going to come by itself, you have to work for it."
If you want to know more about the population breakdown in Tennessee or in your county, click on the link below.