Fortunately, foreign born workers are still eager to come to communities like ours, contribute to the community and local economy and pursue the American Dream. In the Dayton region, immigrants account for nearly 69% of our total population growth. Though they account for just 4.6% of our population, they make up nearly 6% of our working age labor force, according to the American Immigration Council. They also make up 12.7 of our STEM workers an especially important contribution in Dayton, where so many of our major employers are in the tech, defense, and aviation sectors.
And because immigrant workers help businesses stay in our area, rather than relocating to places with greater labor resources, it’s estimated that they have helped preserve well over 3,500 manufacturing jobs that would otherwise have been lost.
Sustaining those benefits requires action on a range of fronts. We need federal visa and green card reform that would create a more direct pipeline between our region’s amazing colleges and universities and our local businesses. The White House’s new international STEM worker rules make some headway here but it’s still far too difficult for international graduates to secure long-term employment in Ohio.
That’s why we can’t sit on our hands and wait for Congress or the White House. We need to take action at the state and local level to support our immigrant neighbors who are preserving and creating jobs and make our communities welcoming places.
At the Dayton Area Chamber, we’re doing just that. We help our members navigate the red tape that holds back guest worker and skilled worker visa applications. We help immigrant entrepreneurs to get the licenses and support they need to start businesses and create jobs. And we help talented international students to secure internships, connect with employers, and find work after they graduate.
Of course, we can’t fix America’s immigration system overnight. But we can — and must — support our new neighbors if we want to keep on growing the economy here in southwest Ohio. Immigrants are a crucial part of the solution to our labor shortages, and it’s time for us to come together—as a country, as a state, and as a local community — and do all we can to welcome them to America.
VP for Strategic Initiatives
Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.
Download a PDF of this article as it appeared in the Dayton Daily News.