New report shows crucial role immigrants play

A recent report called New Americans in Allen County highlights the crucial role immigrants play in the region’s labor force, business creation, and consumer spending power. 

The report was issued by the American Immigration Council, in partnership with Amani Family Services, Downtown Fort Wayne, and Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and is part of the Gateways for Growth Challenge, which focuses on improving immigrant inclusion in participating communities. The St. Joe Foundation contributed $5,000 to support the Gateways for Growth initiative. 

Between 2014 and 2019, the population of Allen County increased by 3.3 percent while the immigrant population grew by 12.6 percent, with 24 percent of the total population growth in the county attributable to immigrants. This means that population growth would have been slower without immigrants moving to the county.  

In 2019 alone, immigrants in the county held $496 million in spending power and paid $99.1 million in federal taxes and $61.8 million in state and local taxes. Despite making up 6.8 percent of the county’s total population in 2019, immigrants represented 8.8 percent of its working age population, 7.8 percent of its employed labor force, and 5.4 percent of its science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workers in 2019. 

“We are proud to help improve opportunities for including and welcoming immigrants and refugees in our community,” said Meg Distler, executive director of the St. Joe Foundation. “Our values emphasize that all people, regardless of nationality, should be treated with dignity and that’s why we continue to support the work of local immigrant- and refugee-serving organizations.”

The new research report, New Americans in Allen County, finds: 

  • Immigrants are helping the county meet its labor force demands. In 2019, immigrants were 32.3 percent more likely to be of working age than their U.S.-born counterparts. 
  • Immigrants support the federal safety net. Immigrants contributed $65.3 million to Social Security and $17.4 million to Medicare in Allen County in 2019.  
  • Immigrants are helping Allen County meet its rising labor needs in key industries. While making up 6.8 percent of the county’s overall population in 2019, immigrants represented 13.5 percent of manufacturing workers, 12.3 percent of construction workers, and 8.3 percent of hospitality workers. 
  • Immigrants play a significant role in the county as entrepreneurs. Immigrants represented 9.9 percent of business owners in Allen County in 2019. About 1,300 immigrant entrepreneurs generated $37.9 million in business income for the county. 

“Amani has been dedicated to advancing priorities around welcoming and inclusion for the past 17 years as an agency,” said Amani CEO Ewelina Connolly. “This critical data allows us to amplify the voices of those we serve and care about. We view this as an opportunity to make an incredible impact on our community.” 

“As we work towards advancing Downtown Fort Wayne as the vibrant, urban core of northeast Indiana, making the heart of our region more welcoming to new employees, residents and businesses is simply good practice,” said Michael Galbraith, president of Downtown Fort Wayne. “Our unparalleled growth as a city and region depends on increasing growth, prosperity and diversity for new and existing residents.” 

“This research highlights the important contributions of foreign-born residents in Allen County. Locally, immigrants account for about 12,000 members of the workforce, 1,300 entrepreneurs and small business owners, and 1,500 college students,” said Ellen Cutter, chief economic development officer at Greater Fort Wayne Inc. “We are building a nationally recognized economy in Fort Wayne and Allen County, and newcomers play an important role in our community’s success.”  

The report was presented during a September Immigration Report Card event supported by Amani Family Services, Welcoming Fort Wayne, Catholic Charities, International House, and the St. Joe Foundation.

Read the full research brief at the American Immigration Council’s website.  

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