OTTAWA COUNTY, MI — A new report released today by New American Economy in partnership with Ottawa County, underscores the critical role immigrants play in the community’s labor force, agriculture industry, and housing market. Despite making up 5.4 percent of Ottawa County’s population, immigrants accounted for 28.7 percent of the county’s agricultural workers and helped create or preserve 700 manufacturing jobs that would have otherwise vanished or moved elsewhere. In 2019 alone, immigrants in Ottawa County contributed $335.3 million in spending power, and paid $72.9 million in federal taxes and $38.7 million in state and local taxes.
The new report was awarded to Ottawa County as part of the Gateways for Growth Challenge, a competitive opportunity for localities to receive research support and/or technical assistance from New American Economy and Welcoming America to improve immigrant inclusion in their communities. Ottawa County and New American Economy released the new report at the Ottawa County Annual Diversity Forum – Journeys to Equity: Safe & Healthy Communities, bringing together leaders across sectors to ensure that the county welcomes and harnesses the potential of all its residents.
“Under the leadership of Al Vanderberg, former County Administrator, Ottawa County has embraced ‘cultural intelligence’ as a necessary ingredient to our County’s prosperity into the future,” said Paul Sachs, Ottawa County’s Director of Strategic Impact. “This new data from New American Economy serves to help enhance our cultural intelligence. The more we work to combine this cultural intelligence with active community engagement to better understand, embrace, and support the diversity of our population and our workforce, the more opportunity there is for every resident, every community, and every business, to thrive.”
“Communities around the country are in a fierce battle to attract and retain talented people,” said Jennifer Owens, President of Lakeshore Advantage. “Cultivating a community that is committed to welcoming immigrants and people of all backgrounds ensures the lakeshore’s legacy of being a highly-desired place to live for new and long-term residents alike.”
“This report highlights the invaluable role immigrant and refugee communities play in Ottawa County’s economy,” said Leani García Torres, Associate Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “Immigrants are playing a crucial role in bolstering the county’s workforce, from STEM and healthcare, to agriculture and manufacturing.”
“Through programs like Gateways for Growth, we’ve seen the widespread benefits to entire communities when immigrants are able to contribute fully, particularly as entrepreneurs working in key industries,” said Molly Hilligoss, Network Director of Welcoming America. “Ottawa County is just one example of how immigrant inclusion is part of the recipe for sustainable population and economic growth.”
The new research report, New Americans in Ottawa County, finds:
- Immigrants are helping the county meet its rising labor force demands. As of 2019, immigrants made up 5.4 percent of the county’s overall population, but represented 6.8 percent of its working-age population, and 6.7 percent of its employed labor force. Immigrants in the county are 28.2 percent more likely to be working age than their U.S.-born counterparts.
- Immigrants in Ottawa County help create or preserve local manufacturing jobs. Because of the role immigrants play in the workforce helping companies keep jobs on U.S. soil, immigrants in the regions helped create or preserve approximately 700 jobs that would have otherwise vanished or moved elsewhere.
- Immigrant households support federal social programs. Immigrants and refugees contributed $51.5 million to Social Security and $13.1 million to Medicare in 2019.
Read the full research brief here.