Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Immigration Stimulus

I'll start this post by writing that the Cool Cities approach to urban revitalization isn't effective. At least, I'm deeply skeptical that it can work. I bring this up concerning the immigrant talent advantage that many Sun Belt cities currently enjoy. The Sound of Ideas recently hosted a panel that explored what the Rust Belt could do to steal some of this economically vital talent:

John Austin Brookings Institution
Reka Barabash Executive Director TiE Ohio

One of the strategies suggested is to make your community more welcoming to immigrants. In other words, increase one of Richard Florida's key variables: Tolerance. I doubt southern cities are attracting more immigrants than Rust Belt cities because they are more tolerant. Short of policy change at the federal level (notoriously difficult), what can shrinking cities such as Youngstown do?

I suggest targeting foreign-born secondary migration, which has benefited many cities in Eastern Pennsylvania thanks mostly to the proximity to New York City. Reading's Cool City credentials didn't catalyze more immigration. In fact, look no further to Hazleton to grasp the tolerance climate in that part of the United States. Instead of committing resources to local social transformation, fund a campaign to attract immigrant talent thriving in the DC Metro area or Chicago.

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