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St. Louis and Rural Communities in Iowa Develop Strategies to Attract Immigrants Who will Help to Defer Economic Decay

First Posted: Feb 11, 2014 02:24 PM EST
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St. Louis, Missouri is yet another example of a city that struggles with the "recruitment and retention of human capital." St. Louis has a small immigrant population compared to other metro areas of similar size, and that absence explains a lack of economic expansion and growth. The Simon Center for Regional Forecasting at Saint Louis University issued a report in 2013 that indicated that immigrants are 60 percent more likely to be entrepreneurs in that region, but a lack of immigrants result in a shortage of startups. The St. Louis Mosaic Project, which is formally known as the St. Louis Regional Immigration and Innovation Steering Committee, works to engage immigrants for economic progress, and they've already yielded positive results. Opportunities are being created for foreign-born professionals, who are business-minded and well-connected. The Mosaic Project reaches out to local, regional, and federal government leaders, in an effort to break down hiring barriers. The project also lured Missouri into the immigration reform conversation; and encouraged state-wide support of international students and immigrant integration.

"Regional leaders who want their metropolitan areas to weather the country's inevitable economic and demographic changes will likely need to weave immigrants into their regional narratives and visions for their regional futures, helping to calm the political waters by highlighting how immigrants and their children can be assets rather than problems," John Mollenkopf and Manuel Pastor of the Building Resilient Regions Research Group. "[They] will help facilitate a broad and much-needed recognition that a region's resilience is based not on struggling with strangers, but rather on welcoming with the warmth that will help newcomers maximize their contributions to our country's metropolitan future."

The rural communities of Iowa are also affected by population decline, leading to the "economic decay of small-town America." Again, immigrants can reverse economic strife through small-business formation. Retail stores, auto repair shops, labor-contracting business, specialty farms, translation services, and small-scale manufacturing are businesses that are grown by immigrants, and often without the assistance of local banks. Immigrants rely on family labor and personal saving to fund and establish businesses. These firms help to generate tax revenue, improve neighborhoods and create additional goods and service options for native and foreign-born immigrants.

However, small towns can be difficult for newcomers due to language barriers, lack of cultural understanding and discrimination. Minority business owners also face challenges regarding permits, regulations, expansion expenses, and book keeping. For that reason, Iowa State University initiated a program that promotes economic development, immigrant integration, and entrepreneurship promotion within the state. The program works as part of a wave of ventures created with an interest in absorbing the talents of newcomers while offering opportunities for them to grow as business owners, and it encouraging integration. The evidential benefits of immigrant entrepreneurship are not the only benefits: bi-national partnerships will develop; immigration reform will be discussed in an informed way -- leading to a comprehensive and modernized U.S. immigration system; access to language and culture will ease communication; and immigrants providing opportunities to other immigrants will lead to a waterfall of small-business growth and an emergence in big business.

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