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Foreign-Born Residents Contributed $3.3 Billion to Kent County GDP in 2016

Immigrants paid more than $320 million in taxes; held nearly $1 billion in spending power

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Immigrants in Kent County contributed $3.3 billion to the county’s GDP in 2016 and paid $214 million in federal taxes and $102 million in state and local taxes, according to a new report by New American Economy (NAE), in partnership with Samaritas, the City of Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Chamber, the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and The Right Place. The report was presented during a breakfast meeting at the Goei Center sponsored by Fifth Third Bank and Mercantile Bank. The meeting featured Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and Samaritas Executive Director of Development Joel Lautenbach, as well as other business and community leaders in the county.

In addition to their financial contributions, the report shows the foreign-born population’s role as contributors to the workforce in Kent County, and as drivers of population growth. Although the foreign-born made up 8.0 percent of the county’s overall population in 2016, they represented 9.9 percent of its working-age population,[1] 9.4 percent of its employed labor force, and 9.9 percent of its STEM workers. Immigrants were also responsible for a quarter of population growth in the county between 2011 and 2016.

The report also features profiles of five Kent County immigrants: Ramesh and Sonal Patel, Ruben Ramos, Natalia Kovicak, and RC Caylan.

“We are pleased to share these findings with the community and celebrate all that immigrants and refugees bring to our region,” said Rosalynn Bliss, Mayor of Grand Rapids. “We look forward to continuing to work with our community partners to make sure Grand Rapids is an inclusive and welcoming place for everyone.”

“There is so much growth potential in Kent County, and immigrants and refugees are a crucial part of this vision,” said Joel Lautenbach, Executive Director of Development at Samaritas. “While our community is already welcoming for immigrants and refugees—something we can truly be proud of—we know that more can be done. Grand Rapids can leverage the findings of this project into a multi-sector planning process that purposefully creates an even more welcoming environment and sustainable future growth for all.”

“Immigration fuels the U.S. economy, a fact that a growing city like Grand Rapids helps reinforce every day,” said John Feinblatt, President of New American Economy. “The newest data paints a clear picture—newcomers to Grand Rapids are putting down roots, driving demand, and stimulating job growth.”

The brief, New Americans in Kent County, finds:

  • Immigrants contributed $3.3 billion to Kent County’s GDP in 2016. Immigrant households earned $1.3 billion in income in 2016 and held $943.7 million in spending power.
  • Given their income, immigrants contributed significantly to federal, state, and local taxes. Immigrants paid $219.4 million in federal taxes and $101.5 million in state and local taxes in 2016.
  • Immigrants were responsible for 24.1 percent of population growth in Kent County between 2011 and 2016. Over those five years, the total population increased by 4.6 percent, while the immigrant population increased by 15.3 percent.
  • Despite making up just 8.0 percent of the overall population in the county, immigrants played an outsize role in the labor force in 2016. Foreign-born workers represented 9.9 percent of the working-age population 4 percent of its employed labor force, and 9.9 percent of all workers in in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields in Kent County.
  • Immigrants in Kent County were more likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to have an advanced degree in 2016. 8 percent of immigrants had an advanced degree in 2016, compared to 11.3 percent of the U.S.-born.
  • Immigrants play an outsize role in several key industries in the area. Though they are 8.0 percent of the population, foreign-born workers made up 15.1 percent of all workers in the manufacturing industry and 11.1 percent of workers in the hospitality and recreation industry.
  • Nearly half—41.3 percent— of immigrants and refugees in Kent County were naturalized citizens in 2016.

Read the full research brief here.

Grand Rapids is one of 44 communities selected for the Gateways for Growth Challenge, a competitive opportunity from New American Economy and Welcoming America where local communities receive tailored research on the contributions of immigrants, direct technical assistance to develop multi-sector plans for welcoming and integrating immigrants, or matching grants.

[1] People aged 16 to 64.

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…