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Can St. Louis become the fastest growing immigrant community by 2020?

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The St. Louis Mosaic Project is a local group that's trying to boost immigration and the number of immigrants to the St. Louis area, to get people to locate here or relocate here in order to build businesses and create jobs.

The group’s marching orders are to be the fastest growing immigrant community by 2020, and they're working really hard to get that goal achieved. Betsy Cohen, who spearheads the project, is working very, very hard with business leaders, religious leaders, community leaders to try to help the St. Louis bi-state region really boost immigration and the number of people working and settling here in the St. Louis area.

Just a few years ago, the Missouri Legislature and other state legislatures were all trying to outdo each other in being as hostile to immigrants as possible. Missouri politicians adopted laws already passed in Arizona and Alabama that were very draconian and anti-immigrant.  But now we see political leaders understanding the importance of immigration and trying to do everything they can to boost the number of immigrants and to make their cities as accepting as possible.

We've heard of efforts in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati that are really trying to do what St. Louis is doing, that is make the area in which they live an area hospitable to immigrants. How do we go about doing that?

The project has two main areas of focus.  The first issue is students and how to keep students in the St. Louis area, and we talked about the major universities in the area and how so many times, we have these excellent students coming from overseas who leave to go back home to their home country or to another country that's deemed more hospitable to entrepreneurship and innovation. The group is discussing ways that we can try to keep those people here.

Some employers are not familiar with optional practical training (OPT), and how OPT can be a bridge between a student being here on an F-1 visa and getting an H-1B through the employer.   OPT allows employers to sort of see if the employee works out for them, and it also helps an employee make connections in the business community. The group is working with the local universities to boost OPT and to raise awareness from employers of this possible avenue to finding good foreign talent.

The second main issue is entrepreneurship in general, specifically how St. Louis can work towards increasing the number of new business startups in the St. Louis area.  We now have a wide range of companies, not just the high tech but also the mom and pop stores started by immigrants that employ two or three people.  This makes sense because in this current economy, the major employer coming to town is not really happening as much as it used to, and jobs are really being formed by smaller companies devoted towards helping people in a smaller scale.

Did you also know that we have an EB-5 center here in St. Louis.  The center is working towards connecting people who are interested in investing in St. Louis area projects that would allow them to get a green card through the EB-5 investor visa program.

We're really excited about the work that the Mosaic Project is doing. We're excited to be able to be a part of it on a very small way. We're going to do everything we can to help immigrants feel welcome here in St. Louis.

If you have any questions about the St. Louis Mosaic Project, or if you want details on the upcoming event, give us a call (314) 961-8200 or you can shoot me an email, [email protected]. Thanks.

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