HOUSTON (KIAH) — The most recent U.S. Census had a statistic that came as a surprise to some but was obvious to others.

Hispanics are now the largest ethnic group in Houston with more than 44% of the population.

And the margin between Hispanics and other groups is widening.

“Over 70% of Hispanics in Houston are between the ages of 18 and 44,” Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Laura Murillo said. “They will grow significantly.”

Even at their current population, Murillo says Hispanics are major contributors to the Houston economy.

“In Houston, Hispanics spend over one billion dollars per year,” she said.

While their impact is felt economically, Murillo says Hispanics are underrepresented at the highest levels in business and government.

“We know that less than 2% of corporations of board of directors have Hispanics represented,” she said. “That’s a very low number. Also, when we look at City Council, elected offices, we are still not there. But we’re making progress.”

Progress could come by getting out the vote.

Murillo says that if all registered Hispanic voters in Houston actually cast their ballots, they’d make up 27% of the electorate.

Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated between September 15 and October 15, is an opportunity — Murillo says — to get out the word out about the importance of registering to vote.

But she says it’s also about more than that.

“It’s an opportunity to recognize that we are Hispanic, that we’ve come from all parts of the world, and that we’re contributors at the end of the day,” Murillo said.