Roanoke, VA – Immigrant households earned nearly $304 million and contributed over $75 million in taxes in 2017, according to new research by New American Economy (NAE) in partnership with the City of Roanoke and Local Colors, a non-profit that celebrates the city’s diversity. The report will be released at a public event at Williamson Road Public Library and will feature remarks by Mayor Sherman P. Lea, Sr.
In addition to their financial contributions, such as $31 million to Social Security and $8.3 million to Medicare in 2017, the report shows how important immigrants are for Roanoke’s economy and workforce. Immigrants play a major role in vital industries, representing over 11 percent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workers, and nearly 14 percent of general services and construction workers. The report also shows how immigrants helped strengthen the local job market by helping to preserve or create 545 manufacturing jobs that would have either disappeared or moved by 2017.
The report was released as the City of Roanoke brings together leaders across sectors to develop a strategic plan to ensure that Roanoke welcomes and harnesses the potential of all residents. Roanoke was one of 14 communities selected nationally for the 2019 Gateways for Growth award to receive research from NAE and technical assistance from NAE and Welcoming America to support this work.
“The City of Roanoke has been recognized seven times as an All-America City, more than any other locality in the country. Part of what makes us so special is that, although we are a small city, we are diverse and we celebrate that diversity,” said Roanoke Mayor Sherman P. Lea, Sr. “Roanoke is excited to have this opportunity, through the Gateways for Growth grant, to create a Welcoming Roanoke plan that ensures we are taking the right approach to welcome the immigrant population into our community.”
“When cities and counties embrace immigrants, the entire region is able to grow and compete,” said Rich André, Deputy Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “The Roanoke region knows firsthand the economic, cultural, and civic contributions immigrants bring, and is working hard to welcome newcomers for the benefit of all.”
“Local Colors has spent 29 years encouraging and building the ethnic diversity of the Roanoke Valley. We are now a shining star of ethnic diversity in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It’s a natural progression that the community leadership champion this tremendous economic and community asset,” said Beth Lutjen, Executive Director of Local Colors of Western VA. “Local Colors provides advocacy and fosters inclusion for the international community and we are excited to see the contribution quantified and recognized. Local Colors is excited to partner with the City in using the Gateways for Growth award to incorporate an immigrant integration plan into the City’s 20-year comprehensive plan.”
“For over 40 years, Commonwealth Catholic Charities has assisted refugees who were forced by war, persecution and violence to leave their homes, their lives, and even their family members in search of safety and a future. Roanoke has become this place of security and realized dreams for them. Our community has walked alongside them, learning their languages and cultures, providing employment, care, friendship and understanding for them to pursue their American Dream,” said Amar Bhattarai, Director of Resettlement Services at Commonwealth Catholic Charities. “Their contributions have had a positive impact on us. They actively participate in our local economy by starting businesses, becoming a stable labor force in local companies and, above all, becoming our good friends. The Welcoming Roanoke Plan is an important process as our we all work together to continue our culture of welcome and inclusivity. We look forward to this continuing collaboration.”
Read the full research brief here.