Rust belt cities such as St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Dayton, Ohio have long lost their allure for drawing business with declining populations and manufacturing jobs. However, with new efforts in an attempt to revive the cities through attracting immigrants, the cities are offering large incentives to help new businesses start up and thrive.
In Arnoldo Muller-Molina’s case, a Costa Rican native with a PhD in artificial intelligence, St. Louis became a more appealing place to move his business than either the Silicon Valley or New York. Muller-Molina received a $50,000 grant to move his database company to St. Louis where he also received free legal assistance, help in obtaining EB5 investors visas and free mentoring services. With less competition from other large businesses that he would have received in the Silicon Valley, Muller-Molina is set to thrive in the Midwest. Rush belt cities are hoping that through offering free services and helping to draw immigrants to their towns they will be able to revive the cities with more job openings and a thriving economy.
Immigrants tend to live in larger cities, but they also tend to move where they can find jobs. If the new immigration legislation passes then large cities will reap benefits but smaller cities focusing on reviving their economies can also offer more opportunities to job seekers. “A 2011 study from the American Enterprise Institute concluded that immigrants with advanced degrees as well as immigrants of any skill level on temporary visas create jobs for native-born Americans.” With the support of influential leaders such as Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who has publicly announced his support for the immigration legislation, more cities are opening up their doors to immigrants. “It’s important to have this kind of vibrancy and talent to make for a growing economy,” said Jerry Schlichter, a St. Louis-based attorney who founded Arch Grants in 2011. “We need to have this kind of international educated workforce to compete in a global economy.”
The negative attitudes towards immigrants after the 9/11 attacks have created numerous challenges, restrictions, and anti-immigration legislation in multiple municipalities. Despite these challenges, immigrants are eager to be welcomed into communities and start their businesses. A study published by Saint Louis University found that “increasing the number of immigrants will raise employment, grow income, boost real wages, reverse declining home prices and lower unemployment rates.” St. Louis has seen a significant population decline by 62.7 percent since 1950 and the unemployment rate continues to hover at a higher rate than the state average. The city is hoping that by investing in immigrants, they will be able to revive their city and mitigate the damage done by the recent recession and bring people back to the city.
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