Saint Louis University

The crowd filling the auditorium at the Danforth Plant Science Center Tuesday, June 19, was one that reflected the theme of the Immigration and Innovation Conference, "How New Citizens Spur Economic Growth."

Jack Strauss, Ph.D.

The conference, presented by the St. Louis County Economic Council and the St. Louis Development Corporation, drew corporate and political leaders as well as entrepreneurs, immigrants and concerned citizens interested in the ongoing dialogue about immigration.

Following presentations by Mayor Francis G. Slay (Law '80) and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, Jack Strauss, Ph.D., director of the Simon Center for Regional Economic Forecasting Research at Saint Louis University, shared the results of his new study highlighting the relationship of the region's economic vitality to its new citizens.

Among his findings, Strauss said our region has not grown as fast as other similar cities and has in fact lost population. His study shows the primary reason is that unlike other places, not as many new Americans have moved here.

"The St. Louis area has 126,500 immigrants -- 4.5 percent of the region's population -- which is four-to-five times fewer than other top 20 cities," Strauss said. "In 1970, St. Louis ranked 26th in the number of foreign born citizens but is now 43rd."

The report also statistically demonstrates that a lack of immigration explains a considerable portion of the region's slow job and income growth. Strauss said immigrants bring work skills, specialize, pay taxes and buy goods in our region.

"Typical immigration patterns imply that income growth would have been four-to-seven percent greater, and job growth four-to-five percent higher," Strauss added.

The conference concluded with a panel discussion with Anna Crosslin, President and CEO of the International Institute of Metropolitan St. Louis; Maria Del Carmen Jacob, President and founder of NextGen; Joe Reagan, President and CFO of the St. Louis Regional Commerce and Growth Association; and Gilbert Bailon, Editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who also served as moderator.

The conference was broadcast live on HEC-TV. Click here to view the full program.