Immigration fuels the Great Lakes region
The Great Lakes region is an economic powerhouse, fueled by manufacturing, international trade and a combined GDP of more than $6 trillion.
One of the biggest drivers of regional growth is sometimes absent from the popular narrative—immigration. That message is on display in a new report from the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, published in partnership with New American Economy.
“We wanted to respond to the narrative that our region is isolationist and not welcoming of immigrants,” said Brandon Mendoza, manager of government affairs at the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. “We wanted to say, 'actually, immigration in this region has helped accelerate our economies away from what folks refer to as the Rust Belt and the manufacturing decline.'”
One important way that immigration fuels economic growth is by combatting population decline and out-migration. Immigrants were responsible for more than half of the region’s population growth from 2000–15. Foreign-born workers are also younger, on average, than their native-born counterparts, which helps keep the region’s workforce youthful and vital as Baby Boomers retire in large numbers.
“When you look at the top 25 metros in the Great Lakes area, immigration has been a net-positive in terms of reversing out-migration and growing their populations,” said Mendoza. “It’s a lifeblood for a lot of these cities like Pittsburgh, Rochester or Akron, where slow population growth really acts as a drag on economic growth, in general.”
But immigrants are not only filling jobs, the report found. They are also creating them, in large numbers. The study found that immigrant entrepreneurs make up 20 percent of small business owners, and have created over 226,000 jobs in the region from 2000–15.
“Immigrants, by their very nature, are risk-takers,” explained Mendoza. “They’re taking a big risk moving to a foreign country and restarting, so they’re more inclined to start new businesses.”
Mendoza stressed that immigration should be understood as a regional issue, not a national one.
“Our whole message is that we should be thinking about immigration in terms of regions,” he said. “In the Great Lakes region, we really need to make sure our immigration numbers are high and we’re supporting high-skill immigrants, as well as comprehensive legislation at some point in the future.”
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Chamber Foundation QuickPoll - Results Available
The vast majority of respondents to our recent QuickPoll on Chamber Foundations either currently manage a 501(c)3 foundation or have one in the works. The results provide details on foundation missions, funding, and staffing - as well as some good advice from your chamber peers. Some highlights:
"Establish foundation governance that shows independence from your Chamber board. Establish a clear financial firewall between the Chamber and your foundation so that the IRS will not consider your foundation to be a supporting organization for your Chamber activities. Supporting organizations under 509(a) cannot receive grant funding from private foundations. Create strong contractual documents for rental of space and allocation of costs for staff time and network resources, etc. Draft your mission very broadly before submitting form 1023 to the IRS. Think big picture in allowing enough leeway to include programs or initiatives you may want to incorporate years down the road. You do not want to have to resubmit to the IRS when you expand your focus later."
"Talk with other chambers who have already gone through this process. Use the ACCE & WACE resource library. Ask everyone you know about nonprofits. We launched our foundation 3 years ago and at that time it was difficult to find chambers that had active or successful foundations. Do not give up, keep asking, and push forward."
"Be in it for the long haul."
Thanks to all who participated! For more information and resources related to Chamber Foundations, please see our Chamberpedia page on the topic.
(The full list of ACCE QuickPolls is available here.)
Affinity Programs QuickPoll Results
We recently polled members on the performance of their affinity programs. Here's a sampling of the results:
The majority of chambers managing affinity programs earn less than 1% of their total revenue from these programs:
And these chambers don't necessarily expect this to change: Less than a quarter of respondents are seeing increasing revenues from affinity programs.
Click here for the complete results, including the types of products and services chambers offer, as well as how members rate the performance of their affinity programs.
For related information and resources, visit our Chamberpedia page on Affinity Programs.