Where demographers see change, Lauri (Smith) Jordana ‘88 sees opportunity.

Jordana is the founder of Conexión Marketing in Seattle, which is dedicated to marketing companies to the rapidly growing Hispanic/Latino market.

When Jordana graduated from Washington State University in foreign language and literature, she immediately left for Spain, which she’d fallen in love with during her year abroad, intending to spend the rest of her life there. But her life plans were pre-empted when she got homesick and returned to Washington after a year.

Back home, with fluent Spanish, she embarked on a series of positions with various companies, helping them reach Hispanic consumers. She helped create the Hispanic marketing division for both AT&T Wireless and Cingular.

Four years ago, she started her own company, Conexión. There was, she recognized, money to be made from a rapidly growing Hispanic market. Buying power of Hispanics in the Puget Sound area has grown 494 percent since 1990. Nationally, that figure is 384 percent.

Even so, when she started Conexión, people would ask what she was doing here, why not in Yakima? Even four years ago, she says, contrary to prevailing assumptions, there were more Latinos on the west side of the state than in the east.

What makes West different from East in Washington is that there are fewer congregated pockets of Hispanics in the Puget Sound area. From Mount Vernon and the Skagit Valley to Tacoma, communities include a higher number of Hispanics, but not at the same density as in Sunnyside or Yakima.

Hispanics are great customers, says Jordana. They tend to be more brand loyal and to have larger families and households. Word of mouth is “amazing,” she says, in reference to a very effective marketing tool.

Conexión helped establish a presence for Plaza Bank, a new bank in Seattle that aims at a largely immigrant Hispanic clientele. The bank was founded by Hispanics who wanted to reach out to others unfamiliar with the U.S. banking and credit system. Forty percent of its loans are to minorities and women. Seventy-three percent percent of its consumer loans are to Hispanics. According to Puget Sound Business Journal, Plaza has the second-largest amount of money of all U.S. Hispanic start-up banks. In July 2008, it had assets of $83 million.

Conexión’s retail industry fact sheet lists Hispanic population in the state, not including undocumented residents, at 586,000, or nine percent of the total population. It estimates total Hispanic population, including undocumented residents, at 860,000.

Conexión estimates Hispanic buying power in the Seattle/Tacoma area at $3.7 billion. Buying power in Yakima/Tri-Cities is $2.4 billion. Forecasted growth of Hispanic population is 737,000 by 2015 and 965,000 by 2025.

“Diversity is what we are now,” says Jordana. “It’s not just this thing to pander to. Companies say, ‘oh yeah, we need to improve our diversity.’ Marketers who aren’t paying attention to Latinos are going to feel it in the bottom line.”

For more on Conexión, visit their website.