ARTICLE: Cities scrambling to attract new immigrants

Submitted by Richard Herman on Fri, 11/19/2004 - 01:23.

The following Washington Post article puts the immigration issue and opportunity in economic development perspective, regarding NEO. From 1980-2000, foreign-born population of Cleveland sank 11 percent. Cleveland -- in earlier times known as a city of immigrants -- has joined
the ranks of cities seeking more immigrants. Civic and ethnic groups have
mounted major immigration forums over a three-month period. This region
is suffering an "entrepreneurial drought." Residents need only look
across the Great Lakes to the "bustling international metropolis of
Toronto" to see the difference. Toronto's population is 43 percent
foreign-born, Cleveland's only 5 percent. Read the entire article, posted here. 

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Cities scrambling to attract new immigrants

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Posted on Sat, May. 15, 2004

NEAL PEIRCE
style='width:.75pt;height:.75pt'/>Washington Post
Writers Group

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Slowed down a tad by 9-11 and then recession, the
tsunami of immigration into the United States again rolls on, creating classes
of winners and losers among U.S. cities and regions.

While the foreign-born population of the country shot up 57 percent from
1980 to 2000, from 19.8 million to 31.1 million, it sank 23 percent in
Pittsburgh and 11 percent in Cleveland. By contrast, the New York City region
was renewing itself with a 71 percent rise in its foreign-born. Chicago gained
91 percent, Boston 66 percent. Denver had a 258 percent increase; Portland, 217
percent; Minneapolis-St. Paul, 197 percent.

Surprising new immigration gateways opened up -- Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas
and Washington. Immigration even soared in such unlikely places as Salt Lake
City and Charlotte, according to a recent Brookings Institution analysis based
on Census data.

Is immigration a real elixir for faltering urban economies? Yes, reply
activists in a number of low-immigration cities, among them Pittsburgh, Philadelphia,
Baltimore and Louisville.

Cleveland -- in earlier times known as a city of immigrants -- has joined
the ranks of cities seeking more immigrants. Civic and ethnic groups have
mounted major immigration forums over a three-month period.

The pro-immigration argument laid out by Cleveland attorney Richard Herman,
a leader of the new drive, focuses heavily on economics. His region, he argues,
is suffering an "entrepreneurial drought." Residents need only look
across the Great Lakes to the "bustling international metropolis of
Toronto" to see the difference. Toronto's population is 43 percent
foreign-born, Cleveland's only 5 percent.

And Toronto, Herman suggests, is typical of cities where burgeoning
immigrant clusters have sparked waves of technology start-ups, small
neighborhood proprietorship, real estate investment and international trade.

Why? It's apparently the combination of sheer immigrant energy with
globalization -- the Internet, satellite communications, ease of travel,
enabling people from vast areas of the globe to connect, transfer information
and money and engage in "borderless" commerce.

Among some immigrant groups, Herman claims, the rate of entrepreneurship is
two to three times that of the U.S. population. Skilled immigrants introduce intellectual
and financial capital. In 2000, Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs headed 29
percent of Silicon Valley's technology businesses, collectively accounting for
$19.5 billion in sales and more than 77,000 jobs.

So the Cleveland area will be well-advised, argue Herman and his colleague,
community development specialist Rose Zitiello, to create an "immigrant
entrepreneurial center" to offer counsel and help grow immigrant-owned
firms. And to telegraph -- through immigrants' global networks -- that Cleveland
has a welcome mat out and is anxious to become a vibrant multicultural mecca.

It's a fascinating prospect -- Cleveland and other cities embracing
immigrants for the energy and entrepreneurial vigor they bring. And the embrace
comes with real irony: Some of the most scientifically and technologically
skilled immigrants are from India, a center of outsourcing of U.S. jobs.

While immigration gets championed as an economic booster for cities,
African-American political leaders tend to be leery that promoting more
newcomers is a diversion that makes it easier to ignore their constituents
struggling for an economic foothold.

Even in politically correct New York City, however, new attention is being
focused on targeting assistance to the types of entrepreneurial immigrants
who've already begun to revive such areas as the South Bronx and Manhattan's
Jackson Heights and Washington Heights.

"The key is to teach the immigrant public about how America works, so
these communities can become less insular," said Nathalie Bernal of Accion
New York, a group that makes loans and provides counsel to "micro"
entrepreneurs. "Teach them about taxes. About building credit. That you
can't put your money under the mattress."

With bankable credit, of course, immigrants are poised to tap mainline
capital, heavily based on Americans' savings and investments -- a sort of a
red, white and blue "win-win" scenario. What a novel idea!

Neal Peirce

Neal Peirce is a nationally
syndicated columnist who writes about state and local government and federal
relations. Write him c/o Washington Post Writers Group, 1150 15th St. NW,
Washington, DC 20071, or by e-mail at nrp [at] citistates [dot] com.