MIGRANTS ARE THE HOPE FOR REVIVING MANY SMALLER MIDWESTERN CITIES — TRUMP/SESSIONS “GONZO” ENFORCEMENT IS THE THREAT! — “In light of Trump’s policies, anything that hurts cities is bad for the Midwest, because we have a lot of cities back on their heels (after) population loss!”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/immigration/ct-midwest-immigrant-populations-met-20170918-story.html#nws=true

Marwa Eltagouri Reoorts for the Chicago Tribune:

“Like most Midwestern cities, this one is losing its native population. It’s becoming less appealing to the people born and raised there, who have their sights set on warmer states in the South and West.

But as locals move out, immigrants are moving in.

Rockford has manufacturing and aerospace jobs, and help-wanted fliers are taped inside the windows of storefronts. It’s a short drive from Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago. Housing is affordable. There are Buddhist temples and a mosque, and tight-knit immigrant communities that praise Rockford to friends and families overseas who are looking to settle in America.

For these reasons, among others, the city’s immigrant population grew by 64 percent from 2000 to 2015, according to U.S. Census data, helping to mitigate a net population loss of about 10,000 people between 2010 and 2016.

 

Rockford is emblematic of a larger trend that’s happening at a time when the country is torn over the issue of immigration. In more than 40 Midwestern cities, immigrants are a lifeline, bucking the pattern of population loss and revitalizing an aging workforce. In the last 15 years, immigrants accounted for 37 percent of the growth of Midwestern metropolitan areas — defined as a city and its surrounding suburbs. That’s a significant contribution for a region that has experienced the slowest growth in the nation.

In larger cities like Chicago, population loss is greater and the influx of immigrants isn’t having the same impact as in smaller Midwestern cities. Chicago and its suburbs lost 19,570 residents in 2016 — the most of any major city in the country.

Immigrants tend to settle in ethnic neighborhoods in larger cities, and have a more difficult time assimilating. Demographers predict that immigrants will likely keep fueling the populations of quieter, midsize cities like Rockford, where some say it’s easier to adjust to American life.

“I think in Rockford, you can be part of America,” said Sunil Puri, a Rockford businessman who moved there from India in the 1970s. “The middle class, in the middle part of the country, in Midwestern America.”

For many Midwestern cities with shrinking populations, immigration is a lifeline

Immigrants talk about resettling in Rockford, where the immigrant population grew by 64 percent from 2000 to 2015, according to U.S. Census data. “Rockford – it’s a great place for a refugee to start,” said Ahmed Muhammed, who moved to Rockford from Iraq in 2010. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)
Marwa EltagouriContact Reporter
Chicago Tribune

Like most Midwestern cities, this one is losing its native population. It’s becoming less appealing to the people born and raised there, who have their sights set on warmer states in the South and West.

But as locals move out, immigrants are moving in.

Rockford has manufacturing and aerospace jobs, and help-wanted fliers are taped inside the windows of storefronts. It’s a short drive from Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago. Housing is affordable. There are Buddhist temples and a mosque, and tight-knit immigrant communities that praise Rockford to friends and families overseas who are looking to settle in America.

For these reasons, among others, the city’s immigrant population grew by 64 percent from 2000 to 2015, according to U.S. Census data, helping to mitigate a net population loss of about 10,000 people between 2010 and 2016.

 

Rockford is emblematic of a larger trend that’s happening at a time when the country is torn over the issue of immigration. In more than 40 Midwestern cities, immigrants are a lifeline, bucking the pattern of population loss and revitalizing an aging workforce. In the last 15 years, immigrants accounted for 37 percent of the growth of Midwestern metropolitan areas — defined as a city and its surrounding suburbs. That’s a significant contribution for a region that has experienced the slowest growth in the nation.

In larger cities like Chicago, population loss is greater and the influx of immigrants isn’t having the same impact as in smaller Midwestern cities. Chicago and its suburbs lost 19,570 residents in 2016 — the most of any major city in the country.

 

Immigrants tend to settle in ethnic neighborhoods in larger cities, and have a more difficult time assimilating. Demographers predict that immigrants will likely keep fueling the populations of quieter, midsize cities like Rockford, where some say it’s easier to adjust to American life.

“I think in Rockford, you can be part of America,” said Sunil Puri, a Rockford businessman who moved there from India in the 1970s. “The middle class, in the middle part of the country, in Midwestern America.”

 

Immigrants can’t fully make up for population losses across the Midwest communities, but without them, cities and towns would be far worse off, demographers say.

The number of people born in the U.S. has declined since 2000 in about one-third of Midwestern metropolitan areas, according to a report compiled by Chicago demographer Rob Paral in May for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Another third of the cities have grown slowly — by less than 7 percent while the nation as a whole grew by 14 percent during that same time.

While immigrants made up 7.8 percent of Midwestern metropolitan areas in 2000, that number rose to 9.7 percent by 2015. The areas with the most foreign born people continue to be traditional gateway cities like Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit. But in areas less-known for their immigrant communities, like Rockford, Iowa City, Bloomington, Ind., Wichita, Kan., Lincoln, Neb., and Grand Rapids, Mich., immigrants are starting to make up nearly 10 percent of the population.

In towns large and small across Indiana and Wisconsin, the trend is noticeable, according to people surveyed by the Tribune. They say their neighborhoods are diversifying, and they can count a number of newer, immigrant-owned restaurants or businesses they’ve visited. In Rockford, most residents believe the city to be welcoming to immigrants, and say instances of discrimination are generally rare. They also say they’ve noticed an effect on the economy.

“From an economic standpoint, we’re seeing the impact the immigrant population has on our city,” said Mayor Tom McNamara. “It’s pretty dramatic. Foreign-born residents are starting businesses at a more frequent rate.”

Rockford immigrants
Immigrants from several countries who’ve recently made Rockford their home gather at Catholic Charities of Rockford on Aug. 24, 2017. From left are: Girom Gebreslessie, a former refugee from Eritrea; Lusi Ntamuheza, a former refugee from Burundi; Thang Khen Mung, a former refugee from Burma; and Tshela Annie Mwambuyi, a former refugee from Congo. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)
Still, Rockford’s home county, Winnebago, voted for President Donald Trump, who promised to reduce illegal immigration and has proposed policies since taking office to do so. Last month, Trump embraced legislation that would dramatically reduce legal immigration and shift toward a system that prioritizes merit and skills over family ties.

Because foreign-born people are a key component of Midwestern cities, Paral said, policies that curtail immigration put their population growth at risk.

“In light of Trump’s policies, anything that hurts cities is bad for the Midwest, because we have a lot of cities back on their heels (after) population loss,” Paral said.”

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Read the rest of the story at the link.

Wow! Just think how great America could become if we had an Administration that ditched the White Nationalist, racist, xenophobic agenda and instead worked to develop a sane immigration policy that actually advanced our national interests? That would include legalization, significantly expanded opportunities for legal immigration (and not just for English-speaking PHDs — forget the xenophobic, White Nationalist “RAISE Act” built on the premise that immigraton is bad and has to be reduced or “offset” – hogwash!), more enforcement of wage and hour laws, and concentrating immigraton enforcement resources on “bad guys” rather than folks who are here to hep us prosper and move forward.

Also, what would it be like to have an electorate where more folks voted their own and their country’s best interests, instead of voting their biases, fears, and erroneous beliefs (like, perhaps undocumented migrants should get in a nonexistent “line,” or that immigration is bad for American workers, or that migrants don’t want to assimilate and be part of the community).

Our daughter Anna and her family live just over the state line from Rockford in Beloit, WI. Migrants of all types are helping to revive what had been a “down and out” former manufacturing center. In other words, they are an important part of the “Beloit Proud” movement that is making Beloit a better place to live.

The Trump Administration and in particular “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions are getting in the way of progress. Pretty ironic for an Administration that claims to want to reduce government regulation and intrusions on American businesses and communities, while actually building an expensive and counterproductive internal police force in the guise of immigration enforcement.

PWS

09-18-17

DIANE HENDRICKS: AMERICA’S SECOND RICHEST WOMAN’S QUEST TO REVIVE BELOIT, WI!

https://www.nytimes.com/video/business/100000005337194/beloit-a-small-wisconsin-town-seeks-to-become-a-tech-haven.html?emc=edit_nn_20170807&nl=morning-briefing&nlid=79213886&te=1

Alexandra Stevenson writes in the NY Times Business Section:

BELOIT, Wis. — When Diane Hendricks sees something she doesn’t like here, she buys it.

A bankrupt country club. A half-empty mall. Abandoned buildings. The rusting foundry down by the river.

Beloit used to be a town that made papermaking machines and diesel engines. Ms. Hendricks thinks it can be a place where start-ups create the next billion-dollar idea, and she is remaking the town to fit her vision. She can do so because she is the second-richest self-made woman in the United States, behind only Marian Ilitch of Little Caesars Pizza, according to Forbes magazine.

“I see old buildings, and I see an opportunity for putting things in them,” says Ms. Hendricks, 70, who got her start fixing up houses here as a single mother and made her billions selling roofing felt, copper gutters and cement with her late husband, Ken.

Now Ms. Hendricks is fixing up Beloit.

She took the library from its historic location downtown and resurrected it inside a failing mall at the edge of town, replacing the original with a performing arts center where dance and music students from Beloit College can study and perform each year. Then she scooped up nearly every building on a downtown block and knocked each one down, making way for a sushi restaurant, a high-quality burger joint and modern apartments with marble countertops and exposed-brick walls.

Lyndon French for The New York Times

“It’s the one thing that Ken and I said we’d never do: buy restaurants or a golf course. And now we have both.”

Diane Hendricks, founder and chairwoman of ABC Supply.

She called the complex the Phoenix. “It looks like we’re beautifying the city, but we’re really beautifying the economy,” she says, casting her piercing blue eyes out of the window of her office in Ironworks, the old foundry complex she converted into a commercial space.

She has wooed several start-ups, persuading them to set up shop in the old foundry building — one with the help of Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, who personally called the co-founders on her behalf.

Ms. Hendricks, a major Republican donor, was briefly thrust into the national spotlight a few years ago when she was recorded asking Mr. Walker to break up the labor unions. He then introduced a bill limiting the ability of public workers to bargain over wages. In response, protesters occupied the halls of the Capitol for weeks.

Not long ago, Beloit’s economy was ugly. Like many American cities — Detroit, Youngstown, Gary — it had fallen victim to the damage that is wrought when one major industry vanishes from town, reversing local fortunes.

Beloit is different today. That’s because this town of nearly 37,000 has a billionaire who has gone to great lengths to help it turn a corner.

In a nation with countless struggling towns and small cities, Beloit is not a model for economic revival that is easily replicated, although a few others have tried.

. . . .

Despite Ms. Hendricks’s efforts, unemployment is still high. A short drive south of the Phoenix and new buildings turn to boarded-up shops. Beloit remains deeply troubled. About a quarter of the population lives in poverty, twice the rate of residents in the rest of Rock County. One in every four children lives in poverty in the county, according to Project 16:49, a nonprofit group that works with homeless youth.

What’s more, many new jobs are filled by people who commute to Beloit from nearby cities. At AccuLynx, a software company based in the Ironworks, just 17 percent of the employees live in Beloit. The rest live in nearby towns in Wisconsin and just over the border in Illinois.

And many of the new jobs require technical skills, like engineering, that residents who once worked in manufacturing often lack. “I know that there are parts of Beloit that are not sharing in this renaissance,” says Scott Bierman, president of Beloit College.

Mr. Bierman credits Ms. Hendricks for providing a vision of how things can be. Still, he says, “I worry a lot.”

While he does see signs that what Ms. Hendricks has built can be sustainable, “We’ll know a lot more once we get through the next recession,” he said.

For now, around 1,000 people currently work out of Ironworks, according to Mr. Gerbitz of Hendricks Commercial Properties. “Our goal is to get to 5,000, which was what was lost when Beloit Corporation went away,” he said.

Ironworks today is a far cry from its foundry origins. At AccuLynx, the software firm, there is a giant slide running down from the second floor to the first, a video-game console and a giant gold bell that is rung when sales are made.

AccuLynx’s founder, Rich Spanton, described the day his grandfather, who had worked at the foundry as a superintendent for nearly a half-century, visited the building, where he had spent a career assembling steel parts for paper machines. He was astonished at what he saw.

“He walked in,” Mr. Spanton recalls, “and he said, ‘Jeez, we couldn’t have gotten any work done if this had been our office.’”

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Cathy, Luna, and I happen to be in Beloit, Wisconsin this week visiting our daughter Anna, who is a middle school teacher in the Beloit Public Schools, her husband, Daniel, who is a Professor of Musicology at Beloit College, and their children Oscar and Eve. Cathy, Luna, and I actually walked by the “Phoenix Complex” this morning on our way to a vegan morning breakfast and coffee at “Bagels and More.” On the way back to Anna’s we walked along the Rock River walkway and saw the revitalized Iron Works Complex on the other side. Daniel’s office and classrooms are in the Hendricks Center for the Arts, mentioned in this article. All in all, Hendricks’s vision is everywhere in this part of Beloit.
As its often the case, not everyone here is a “fan” of Hendricks, particularly because of her politics and opposition to unions. On the other hand, one has to respect that 1) Hendricks worked hard for her money — she was a key part of her husband’s American success story; 2) she is turning her money into a public good, something that certainly not all billionaires do (nobody is “making” her invest in Beloit, rather than buying more cars, private planes, swimming pools, vacation homes, etc,. or doing some of the self-indulgent things that some other billionaires enjoy), 3) much like “white resentment,” there is always a certain amount of resentment of the rich just because they are rich; and 4) she can’t do it all — she’s bringing a different kind of job opportunity to Beloit and maybe it’s now up to others in the community and those who want to improve their lot to work hard to develop the skills needed to be successful in a technology-based regional economy — heavy manufacturing and machine tooling aren’t coming back to Beloit — ever.
I have to say that I’m quite favorably impressed by Hendricks’s efforts. Makes me wonder what would happen if someone “on the other side of the political equation” like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg joined up with her in a nonpartisan effort to bring the technological training to the area necessary to get the rest of the community into meaningful jobs. At any rate, she’s certainly someone who is “walking the walk and talking the talk.” Seems like a good role model for folks of any political persuasion.
Interestingly, in the complete story, a key point was when Hendricks and her late husband were turned down for a loan in Janesville, WI because the bank “didn’t want their kind of entrepreneurs.” (Sort of reminds me of the attitude some folks take toward migrants today.) So, they got out of Janesville and went to a more welcoming community — Beloit.
Just shows that “little insults, slights, and ‘disses,’ can have a huge and unexpected long term impact.” Something that Trump and his followers should keep in mind when dealing with all types of migrants. There almost certainly will come a day when we will need the goodwill and help of many of them — what impressions are we leaving with our current national dialogue on immigration and what will be the long-tern impact on America and our history?
Finally, this story wouldn’t be complete without a “shout out” to Anna, Daniel, and the other families making up the “Beloit Proud” movement. A core of young professionals, many connected with Beloit College, have chosen to make Beloit their home, rather than “fleeing” to Madison, Rockford, IL., or even Janesville. They send their children to Beloit Public Schools, are heavily involved in community activities cities, and try to “buy local” and use local services whenever possible. Many have chosen to live in neighborhoods within walking distance from Beloit College. And, it seems to be working. Just in Anna’s and Daniel’s immediate neighborhood some dynamic young families have chosen to make Beloit their home and fix up their properties “just because it seems like a great place to live and do business.” I also wrote about “Beloit Proud” and the Beloit College in a post earlier this summer about my short experience as a “Guest Professor” in Professor Jennifer Esperanza’s Cultural Anthropology course June. http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/06/05/anth-375-beloit-college-professor-jennifer-esperanza-her-students-blaze-path-to-understanding-migration-in-the-liberal-arts-context-every-college-in-america-should-be-teaching-these-essential/
I doubt that I will ever meet Diane Hendricks. If I did, I’m sure we wouldn’t find much common political ground. But, we would agree that investing in Beloit and making it a great place to live — for everyone — is a great and noble idea and that she is setting an example for others to follow.
PWS
08-07-17