May 26, 2011

Area suburbs see surge in Asian residents

The fanning-out shows an increasing standard of living, a community leader says.

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Tarrant County's Asian population jumped by nearly two-thirds in the last decade, with the strongest growth in suburban communities including Mansfield, Southlake and Keller, newly released U.S. Census data shows.

"They all seem to have gotten the same brochure," said Ed Rincon, a Dallas demographer.

The county's population of people of Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese and Korean descent surged in terms of percentage growth from 2000 to 2010, the census data show. And the fanning-out to the suburbs of Asians from urban clusters in Fort Worth and Arlington shows a continued growth in the standard of living of various groups, and higher demand for newer housing and better schools, said Tom Ha, a Haltom City businessman and civic leader.

The presence of houses of worship and other sponsoring groups have long factored heavily into where Asian groups such as Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants have settled in Tarrant County. For example, the growth of Nepalese and Indian populations in Northeast Tarrant and Irving is partially due to the location of temples, Asian community leaders say.

But the new data also show that other factors are influencing where Asian groups decide to live, Ha said.

"This can tell you a lot of Asians are doing much better economically," Ha, a longtime Allstate Insurance agent, said Wednesday while viewing the data over lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in Haltom City.

Ha, a Vietnamese refugee who settled in Tarrant County in 1982, several years after arriving in the United States, knows well. He moved from Arlington to Euless in search of a better house. Then two years ago, he and his wife built a home in Colleyville, looking for better schools for their two children.

Other suburbs like Keller and Mansfield "have a vast area with new homes and new schools," he said.

Some highlights from the latest census data:

Fort Worth and Arlington have the largest populations of Asian residents, with Fort Worth's nearly doubling to 27,615 and Arlington's up 24 percent to 24,826.

Smaller communities showing big growth include Mansfield (505.2 percent), Southlake, (328.8 percent) and Keller (209.7 percent).

Chinese were the fastest-growing Asian ethnic group, up 134.4 percent, followed by Filipinos (88.4 percent) and Indians (70 percent).

The Chinese population declined by 10.8 percent in Arlington, the group's leading Tarrant County population center for years, but grew by 56.9 percent in nearby Grand Prairie and even more in Southlake, Grapevine, Euless and Fort Worth.

The growth in residents may soon lead to more Asian-owned businesses.

In Grand Prairie, for example, a cluster of small retail businesses has popped up at a shopping center at 303 and Great Southwest Parkway. The center, anchored by the Hong Kong Market, which recently moved from Arlington, includes a music store, restaurants, and mortgage and dental offices. Catfish, blue eel, tilapia, lobster and blue crab swim the live seafood tanks at the market.

Cities such as Keller haven't seen such Asian business growth yet, but they will soon, Ha said.

"And the business might not serve Asians primarily," said Ha, who predicts continued big increases in Asian population growth in cities such as Keller and Mansfield, and the Alliance Airport corridor.

Ethnic entrepreneurial communities that surface in suburban cities "would be another magnet" that would draw more Asian relocations, Rincon said.

Tarrant County's growth in Asian numbers has already heightened their political influence, with Vietnamese leaders notably helping secure Andy Nguyen's surprise victory in the race for Tarrant County commissioner. Leaders used phone banks, neighborhood walks, mailers, a seminar and appearances at churches and temples in the eastern Tarrant district to get out the vote for Nguyen.

Vietnamese leaders are now trying to help Betsy Price get elected as Fort Worth mayor, Ha said.

Price's campaign mailed out a late flier to the Vietnamese community during the general election, and it's preparing to run targeted radio spots during Price's runoff against Jim Lane next month.

"We call, we have email, we have phones, we have a lot of stuff," Ha said.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808

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