Asheville, NC – Asheville’s immigrant households earned $489 million and contributed more than $113 million in taxes in 2016, according to new research by New American Economy (NAE) in partnership with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Coalition of Asheville – Buncombe County. The report will be released at an Advocacy and Policy event at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce featuring remarks by Asheville Chamber President/CEO Kit Cramer and Kate Brick, Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy, and a panel with John Oswald, President/CEO of Mills Manufacturing Corporation; Corie Hackney, Human Resources Manager at Omni Grove Park Inn; Keith Wayne, President/CEO of Wayne Brothers Companies; and Terri King, President/CEO of Coldwell Banker King.
The report highlights how important immigrants are to Asheville’s economy and workforce, even though they represent just 5.3 percent of the total population. Immigrants in the Asheville metro area are more likely to be working age than their U.S.-born counterparts (81.4 percent versus 61.4 percent). Immigrants also play a major role in vital industries like construction, where they represent 12.7 percent of the workforce, as well as tourism and recreation (11.3 percent) , and manufacturing (7.1 percent). In manufacturing specifically, immigrants preserved or created 1,076 manufacturing jobs that would have either disappeared or moved by 2016.
The press conference at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce follows the release of an earlier study by the Asheville Chamber and other partners on the State of the Workforce in Western North Carolina that found that the fastest growing industries are in the manufacturing construction, and restaurant, lodging and hospitality sectors. The new NAE report shows that immigrants are playing an outsize role in these critical industries. Given the findings of both reports, the Chamber will continue to create strategies for attracting talent in the face of record low unemployment and workforce shortages in the area.
“While the state of our regional economy is great, we are facing a workforce crunch,” stated Kit Cramer, President/CEO of the Asheville Chamber. “That means we must find qualified workers to fit the jobs we are producing. Our natural population growth cannot meet these needs alone, so we must adopt policies that attract the best talent from outside the area, as well as outside the state and nation.”
Former Asheville Chamber Board Chair Himanshu Karvir owns and operates local hotels and is currently constructing another. The NAE study reiterates his view. “Building a new building, while running a hospitality business, has shown me the value of foreign-born workers here locally,” he said. “I hope to see our state and country continue down a path that allows qualified personnel to provide their talents to us, not turn them away.”
“As we see the region grow, the demand for workers in industries like manufacturing and restaurant, lodging, and hospitality will only increase. This report underscores the critical role immigrants play in the Asheville workforce — and in particular in the industries driving growth, “ said Kate Brick, Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “Now more than ever it’s critical that the region be intentional about attracting and retaining international talent.”