2017-08-20 / Insight

Experts: Immigrants play big role in local, state economy

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LAPEER COUNTY — From starting businesses to contributing to the economies of local communities, immigrants have an increasingly important role in Michigan’s financial stability and growth.

That’s according to the 2016 study “The Contributions of New Americans in Michigan” produced by the Michigan Office for New Americans (MONA) that Gov. Rick Snyder created in 2014 as part of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Representatives of the state office released the report in conjunction with the bipartisan Partnership for a New American Economy’s “Reason for Reform” campaign that is pushing for changes to the immigration process that include less-restrictive federal rules with regard to immigration.

“Immigration has proven to be a driver of job creation and economic growth in Michigan,” said Gov. Rick Snyder in a statement. “As a welcoming state, we know and value the cultural diversity, professional contributions and entrepreneurial skills offered by foreign-born residents. We look forward to working with our federal partners toward making immigration reform a reality to create more jobs for families and enhance the quality of life across Michigan.”

“Immigrants are a very important part of the Lapeer County economy,” said Patricia Lucas, executive director, Lapeer Development Corp. “There are a significant number of employees working in a variety of industries.”

Lucas’s comment echoes that offered by Snyder at the time of the report’s release.

The report culls research from various sources that include data on the foreign-born population in the state — tax contributions, spending power, and the role in Michigan’s key industries as leaders and job creators. It also highlights the need for state business, civic and cultural leaders to urge Congress to take action on immigration reform.

“Over the years, new Americans arriving in Michigan have helped mitigate some of the negative effects of the state’s economic downturn and loss of population during the Great Recession,” according to a press release issued with the report.

In 1990, Michigan’s immigrant community represented less than 4 percent of the state’s total population, a share that had risen to nearly 6 percent by 2010. Between 2010 and 2014, Michigan’s foreign-born population grew by an additional 60,000 (almost twice as fast as the national average), making the state a standout from others in its attraction to new Americans.

The impact of immigrants on the state’s economy is significant, according to the report. Other findings are:

New Americans in Michigan contribute significantly to the state as both taxpayers and consumers, earning $19.6 billion in income in 2014 (or 7.7 percent) of all income earned by Michiganders), and paying out $5.4 billion in overall taxes —including $1.5 billion in state and local taxes that support Michigan’s public schools and police.

They have significant buying power, spending $14.2 billion (net income after taxes) on consumer goods and services offered by Michigan businesses.

They are homeowners, strengthening Michigan’s housing market. About 160,000 foreign born homeowners in the state held almost $35 billion in housing wealth in 2014 and generated 9.7 percent of the state’s rental income.

The 30,686 self-employed immigrants in Michigan represent 8.3 percent of the state’s entrepreneurs. The immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $608 million in business income in 2014.

They account for 25.3 percent of the state’s tech talent in computer systems design, contributing to the state’s technology industry that brings economic opportunity and jobs.

They are helping meet Michigan’s ever-increasing demand for workers in STEM jobs; and are already playing a valuable role in helping ease Michigan’s shortage of healthcare workers that are needed to serve Michigan’s aging population.

The total economic value generated by Michigan’s farm sector and its related industries was $6.69 billion in 2006; crops that use migrant labor account for almost 58 percent of the total economic activity. Migrant farmworkers in Michigan are predominantly foreign born.

Official figures on how many immigrants live in Lapeer County indicate the county has a lower number of “foreign-born persons,” accounting for just under 3 percent of the population during 2011-2015, according to the U.S. Census. (The organization reports the county had a total population of just over 88,000 in July 2016.)

Further, the U.S. Census reports that more than 96 percent of Lapeer County was white as recent at July 16. The next closest is “Hispanic or Latino”

“Michigan has become increasingly attractive to new Americans which has proven to have a very, very positive impact on our state on so many levels,” said MONA Director Bing Goei. “These new Michiganders are working here as college professors, mechanical engineers, and IT professionals; working in our schools, manufacturing plants, on our farms and in the healthcare system, all boosting Michigan’s economic success.”

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