Immigrants and refugees play an increasingly critical role in Greater Cleveland’s economy, especially as many residents are reaching retirement and the native-born population as a whole is aging. Between 1970 and 2013 the city of Cleveland lost nearly half of its population, falling from the 10th to the 45th largest U.S. city. Population decline threatens economic competitiveness, decreases the number of taxpayers, and reduces political representation and influence at the federal level. It also does not reflect the greatness of our people, and we are a great people.

Between 1970 and 2013 the city of Cleveland lost nearly half of its population, falling from 10th to 45th on the list of largest cities.

In 1900, Cleveland was the nation’s fifth most important immigrant gateway city, with nearly 33% of its population foreign-born. During this time, Cleveland’s population was at its highest level of nearly 800,000. The immigrant population migrating to the region drove early 20th century industrial innovation and growth. When we look to the centennial celebrations occurring now, including The Cleveland Foundation, the City Club of Cleveland, the Metroparks, and Cleveland Cultural Gardens, it is no coincidence that these Cleveland-based civic giants began during the highest period of international citizen growth in the history of our Land.

In 1900, according to the Brookings Institution, Cleveland was the nation’s fifth most important immigrant gateway city, with nearly 33 percent of its population foreign-born.

In addition to driving industry and culture, immigrants continue to be twice as likely as native-born to become entrepreneurs. In 2014, immigrant entrepreneurs launched 28.5% of new businesses in the United States, helping to boost new business creation nationally. In Ohio, immigrants have founded more than 20,000 businesses, making them 6.7% of all business owners. In 2010, new immigrant business owners had total net business income of $1.3 billion, which is 5.7 percent of all net business income in the state. Immigrant entrepreneurs have contributed to Ohio’s economy throughout the state’s history, founding such companies as Proctor & Gamble and Eaton Corporation. Other Ohio-based Fortune 500 companies that have at least one immigrant or child of an immigrant co-founder include Kroger, Limited Brands, Big Lots, and Owens-Illinois.

In 2010, new immigrant business owners had total net business income of $1.3 billion, which is 5.7 percent of all net business income in the state.

Although the international-born population of Cleveland represented only 4.9% of population in 2012, they held more than 5.1% of the total spending power of Cleveland, or more than $576 million. The Partnership for a New American Economy estimates that international-born residents of Cleveland contributed nearly $75 million in state and local tax dollars, including income, property, sales, and excise taxes paid to the State of Ohio and the City of Cleveland. This represents almost 5.1% of all state and local tax revenues paid by Cleveland residents, indicating the immigrant community pays well more than it’s share of state and local taxes relative to income.

International-born residents of Cleveland contributed nearly $75 million in state and local tax dollars, including income, property, sales, and excise taxes paid to the State of Ohio and the City of Cleveland.

In 2011, 19.3% of immigrants 27 years or older in the Cleveland metro area held graduate or professional degrees. The overall percentage of young (age 25-34) Clevelanders with this level of education in 2009 was 15%. Continuing to fuel international “brain gain”, in the fall of 2013 there were 29,488 international students enrolled at higher education institutions across Ohio. In the year 2013 alone, these international students supported 11,337 jobs in the state of Ohio and contributed $827.28 million to the state’s economy. Ohio’s postsecondary education of international students has become the state’s 15th largest export.

In the year 2013 alone, these international students supported 11,337 jobs in the state of Ohio and contributed $827.28 million to the state’s economy.

New Americans create new companies, revitalize neighborhoods, pay taxes, attract investments from overseas, and expand economic opportunities for all residents. Immigration and international diversity opens up opportunities and drives the new innovation economy. Our city and region are the beautiful and great places they are for many reasons. One integral reason is the welcome we gave decades and centuries ago – and continue to give today — to immigrants and refugees. The greatest physical and spiritual structures in our community have always been bridges; bridges that connect our sisters and brothers across the oceans to us, bridges that bring innovation from other lands to us and bridges that take our best ideas and shine a light to the world.

Global Cleveland was formed five years ago to share this message and to join the national movement of inclusive communities across the United States. We hope you will join us.

Research Papers & Articles

Policies to Support Immigrant Entrepreneurship

Globalizing Cleveland: A Path Forward

Economic Impact of Refugees in the Cleveland Area

Immigration and American Jobs

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