Friday, October 19, 2012

Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl Supports National Immigration Reform, Attraction of Foreign-Born Entrepreneurs to Spark Economic Growth and Job Creation

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today joined several area community organizations and business leaders in signing on with a national bipartisan movement supporting immigration reform and immigrant attraction as essential elements of economic growth and job creation.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl
during the signing ceremony.
Behind him are (from left) Steven
Sokol, World Affairs Council of
Pittsburgh; Audrey Russo, 
Pittsburgh Technology Council:
Melanie Harrington, Vibrant
Pittsburgh; Robert Feldstein,
Partnership for a New
American Economy 
At a morning news conference, Ravenstahl became an official signatory of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg of over 500 mayors, governors and corporate leaders from all 50 states who believe immigration reform is an economic imperative.

“Pittsburgh’s thriving economy brings students from around the world to study and live in our city,” Ravenstahl said. “By joining this partnership that calls for better opportunities and reform for immigrants, the possibilities of further growth are tremendous.”

Also signing on to the partnership were the leaders of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Vibrant Pittsburgh, Alcoa and BNY Mellon, Ravenstahl said.

Currently, Pittsburgh’s foreign-born residents account for about 7 percent of the city’s population, compared with a national rate of about 13 percent. Studies have shown that immigrants can play a key role in new business and job creation. Immigrants are now twice as likely as native-born residents to start new businesses, which have been the main driver of job creation over the past 25 years.

Presenters at the signing ceremony said that it’s not true that immigrants take jobs from native-born Americans. Another common misconception is that foreign-born professionals are paid less than their native-born counterparts. They said that immigrants provide widespread economic benefits that create jobs. Every foreign-born graduate with an advanced degree who stays in the United States creates 2.6 jobs for American workers, according to Partnership data. They also said that only a small percentage of immigrants in the U.S. are undocumented, or “illegal.”

Some other facts about immigrants and the economy:
  • Over 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children 
  • Three-quarters of all patents at the nation’s Top 10 research universities has a foreign-born inventor 
  • Cities with more immigrants saw their credit ratings improve, their tax bases grow and per capita income increase 
  • Last year, immigrants started 28 percent of all new businesses even though they only represent 13 percent of the population 
“The attraction, retention and elevation of a diverse array of talent – including foreign-born, New American talent – provides a significant source of economic growth, innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation,” said Melanie Harrington, CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh. “As we promote Pittsburgh as an inclusive region to attract talent of all backgrounds, we work toward and remain committed to the long-term success of the Greater Pittsburgh region.”

Robert Feldstein of the Partnership for a New American Economy pointed out that immigrant attraction is becoming an economic development tool around the worlds. Many countries, including Canada and Chile, are aggressively recruiting foreign-born entrepreneurs to come start companies and create jobs, sometimes even offering startup cash and free office space as incentives.

“Mayors and CEOs see every day that immigrants fuel innovation, start new companies and drive economic growth and job creation,” Feldstein said. “We are excited that Mayor Ravenstahl and the leaders of Pittsburgh are joining over 500 mayors and CEOs from across the country to urge leaders in Washington to fix our broken immigration system.”

The Partnership has several goals for immigration reform, including:

  • Providing residency visas or “green cards” to foreign-born graduates from American universities in the fields of science, technology, math and science (STEM)
  • Creating a visa program for foreign-born entrepreneurs to build their companies in the United States
  • Increasing or eliminating arbitrary caps to let American companies hire the highly educated workers they need but cannot find locally
  • Giving industries that depend on workers just starting up the economic ladder, such as agriculture and tourism, access to foreign workers when they cannot find Americans to fill jobs
The announcement comes in the heels of a recent announcement by the Pittsburgh Promise, which offers $40,000 college scholarships to graduates from city high schools, that it will work with leaders from the region’s Latino community and philanthropic groups to attract hispanic families to the city.

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