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Census shows growing diversity across southeastern Minnesota

Census shows growing diversity across southeastern Minnesota
Tarah Frieson gives a haircut to one of his regular customers, Wilfredo Gomez, in his barber shop in the basement of the Civic Inn. Frieson has been building a steady client base, since he opened eight months ago, of mostly black men.

Fueled by frustration, Tarah Frieson vowed to come back.

The frustration arose in 2002 when he lived in Rochester, but had to travel to the Twin Cities to find barber who specialized in cutting African-American hair

"I made a promise to myself that when I had my license I'd come back,"  said Frieson, who kept his word in August and opened a barbershop in the lower level of the downtown Civic Inn. Called Universal Cuts, the first style listed in the pricing chart is a fade.

Since that first promise, Rochester's black population has grown dramatically, and with it have  businesses such as Frieson's. Olmsted County in particular has seen exponential growth in the Asian, black and Hispanic categories outlined in the release this week of census figures for Minnesota.

The black population grew from 3,330 in 2000 to 6,870 in 2010, a 106-percent increase. Hispanics went from 2,959 to 6,081, or a 105-percent increase. The Asian population grew from 5,305 to 7,806, a 47-percent increase.

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Olmsted County's white population, on the other hand, grew by 10 percent. Whites, however, still make up 85.7 percent of the county's population at 123,605.

In Mower County, the Hispanic population has grown from 1,646 to 4,138 in the decade, a whopping 185-percent increase.

State demographer Tom Gillaspy said those increases were expected because Minnesota's still largely white population tends to be older than the population of racial minorities. Young people tend to have babies and move around, and part of Minnesota's rising minority numbers include immigration, he said.

Immigration, especially among new arrivals of refugees, however, was drastically reduced in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks compared to the previous decade, said Ron Buzard, executive director of Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association. If immigrants are coming to Rochester it's most likely as secondary immigration from other parts of Minnesota or country, he said.

Having an up-to-date breakdown of the local population will be a benefit to the work of the Diversity Council in educating and raising awareness about how diversity is an asset to the community, said Ashok Patel, president of the council's board of directors.

Even so, he said, "I think we have 100,000-plus unique people in Rochester. We are all in the 'other' category."

He and his wife, who are Filipino, moved to Rochester in 1987, but he joked that they added three to the growing Asian population by way of their daughters.

Dodge County also saw large growth in its nonwhite population. Hispanics there went from 3 percent of the population to 4.6 percent, or 915 people out of 20,087 in 2010.

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In that time, St. John Baptist de la Salle Catholic Church in Dodge Center began offering Mass in Spanish, which draws draws 60 to 90 people each week from across the county, the Rev. Will Thompson said. The church is also looking at new ways to serve the community and help bring its Latino and white congregations together, he said.

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