A new study on the impact of immigrants on the Great Lakes economy includes information with critical implications for Greater Cleveland as we look to replenish our population and compete in the global economy.
The report from New American Economy and the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition—released Tuesday--makes clear that immigrants are helping to create local jobs, especially in the fast-growing healthcare sector, which now employs more people than the manufacturing sector.
According to “ New Americans and a New Direction: The Role of Immigrants in the Reviving of the Great Lakes Region” skilled immigrants helped to make Cleveland a center of world-class medical expertise, which in turn has generated thousands of jobs for working class residents who are overwhelmingly native born.
The impact of immigrants on our healthcare economy is remarkable, and commands special attention in the 50-page study. Though only 5% of the metro population, immigrants make up:
- 30% of the region’s doctors
- 20% of the region’s STEM workers, or people employed in science, technology, engineering and medicine
- 10% of the region’s nurses and home health aides, an important contribution in an aging population
Researchers note that this infusion of talent ripples far and wide. A robust healthcare industry has helped to make Cleveland a center of medical research and biotech startups, attracted more than $2 billion in venture capital, and created thousands of jobs for nurse’s aides, medical technicians and other workers with less than a bachelor's degree.
It has also helped to create an optimistic mood in a region that is now attracting a growing stream of educated young professionals.
“Although the city is still losing overall population,” the study notes, “such declines have slowed dramatically. And between 2000 and 2012, Cleveland’s percentage gain of young college graduates—a demographic crucial to the region’s growth—ranked the third largest in the nation, besting Silicon Valley and Portland, Oregon.”
This multiplier effect is seen in other industries, where a small infusion of talent has helped to create a much larger number of jobs. The study notes, for example, that immigrants are a key piece of the manufacturing revival in the Great Lakes region, as one in every seven manufacturing engineers is foreign born.
The study also offers cause for concern. Cleveland lags many other Great Lakes cities in the growth of its foreign-born population. While immigrants have helped cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, Columbus and Philadelphia to enjoy energizing growth, migration to Cleveland is only enough to soften a larger population decline.
Still, the study presents a way forward. By welcoming immigrants, and tapping immigrant talent, Cleveland can quicken its economic ascent and return to prominence as an economic power in the global economy.
“This report is further evidence of what we already know, immigrants are driving economic growth in the Great Lakes region, and particularly in Greater Cleveland,” said Joe Roman, President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, which is a member of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition. “While the report examines healthcare, we know the positive impact immigrants have in our community cuts across all industries and all sizes of business.”
Joe Cimperman, the president of Global Cleveland, believes the report offers a roadmap to growth.
“This study presents the facts that we can use to build our future,” said Cimperman, who leads an economic development agency that strives to attract and welcome immigrants. “What’s amazing is the impact we get from a relatively small number of immigrants. Imagine if we grow that population? Imagine if we tell more of the world how great of a city Cleveland is, and welcome them to come and make a life here? That’s economic development.”
The region’s top political leaders endorse a welcoming strategy.
“Immigrants and refugees are a significant part of the tapestry that makes the City of Cleveland so unique,” said Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson. “It is our job to welcome them and to provide them with the tools to succeed. It is no surprise to me that the Great Lakes Study is just one more validator to this fact.”
“Cuyahoga County has long thrived with the influx of immigrants to our region,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. “This study is clear–we continue to grow stronger as more immigrants come to work and live here. Our healthcare sector, which is one of our great strengths and one which I believe we need to continue to bolster and grow, is a clearly key to this growth. We must do everything we can to continue to attract and keep these individuals in our region.”