First Stage of Effort to Increase Immigrant Presence in St. Louis Underway

St. Louis political and business leaders have embraced the idea of attracting more immigrants to the area to help grow the economy, but the looming question remains: How? This week St. Louis will kick off the long awaited first phase to draw newcomers to the area.

The plan for immigrants

The St. Louis Mosaic Project, directed by Betsy Cohen, plans on kick starting the initiative by hosting a summit with the details of the plan. This will “include ways to help connect international college students here with area job opportunities, and to add foreign-born focus to current training and small business programs.” Despite a well organized and supported program, immigrants tend to move to certain areas for two main reasons: current communities and economic opportunity. Newcomers are likely to go to places where they already know people.

Except for a large Bosnian community that came after the country’s war, St. Louis does not have any particularly large immigrant community. Missing the last immigrant boom, St. Louis hopes to attract immigrants by offering them jobs. Jeanne Batalova, a demographer at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington says, “The main driving force for most people is economic opportunity.”  Job growth has lagged behind the nation for the last decade but the point of immigration is to push the number up.

Other Cities following suit

St. Louis is not the only city going through a bit of a rough time trying to attract immigrants to boost their economy. A number of cities in the Midwest and northeast are wrestling with unemployment and a lagging economy. Global Cleveland is a company aimed at helping immigrants understand a city better and even find jobs. The difficult part is getting word out to immigrants about job openings, academic opportunities and organizations who are willing to help.

Many states that have been able to draw immigrants to their cities have seen their economy growing again and thriving. Amanda Berson-Shilock, outreach director at the decade-old Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians says, “The immigrant grapevine is a pretty powerful thing,” she said. “If someone moves to Philadelphia and someone helps him build a life here, other people will hear about that.” St. Louis is hoping that immigrants will be able to help enrich its culture with the diversity immigrants bring as well as boost economic opportunities.

If you have questions regarding efforts to bring immigrants to the St. Louis, Missouri area, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.