New Americans

Director of Neighborhood and Community Services Brent Childers talks about immigrants in the local economy during a news conference June 5 at the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce

An effort to better utilize immigrants for the area’s workforce needs is taking another step forward.

Last year, a study titled “New Americans in Warren County” was unveiled that showed the broad positive economic impact of immigrants on the local economy.

According to the study, immigrants and refugees contributed more than $564 million to Warren County’s GDP in 2016; accounted for 9.3 percent of the county’s total population but 10.3 percent of the employed labor force; made up 23.7 percent of all workers in the manufacturing sector; 20.8 percent of the transportation and warehouse industry and 7.8 percent of the education industry.

The study was paid for through a grant from the Gateways for Growth program offered through the New American Economy and Welcoming America organizations.

The city of Bowling Green last month was notified it had been approved for another Gateways for Growth grant this year to develop strategies to capitalize on the research.

The city’s International Communities liaison, Leyda Becker, said the city will use the grant to hire a consultant, “who will work to develop a strategic plan.”

The city applied for the latest grant last year and was formally approved in December for a grant of $12,500 with a matching $12,500 from the city.

The strategic plan will focus on how immigrants can help fill some of the thousands of job openings in the region, as well as looking at strategies to promote entrepreneurship in immigrant populations.

Becker previously said one example of the importance of the data is that it showed almost 26 percent of employed Warren County immigrants worked outside the county. While officials had suspected that was the case based on anecdotal evidence, “now we have the data to back that up,” she said, and can be the basis for developing a plan to keep some of those workers in the county.

As of 2017, about 11,274 immigrants lived in Warren County, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. According to the 2018 study, immigrants were responsible for 32.2 percent of the total population growth in Warren County from 2011 to 2016. Over those five years, the population in the county increased by 15.4 percent, while the new Americans population increased by 86.6 percent.

The city has partnered with the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce and the South Central Workforce Development Board on the New Americans initiative.

“This award represents a unique opportunity to leverage our city’s assets to formulate strategies that foster our city’s economic development,” Bowling Green City Manager Jeff Meisel said in a new release.

Along with Bowling Green, 12 other communities were selected nationally for the New Americans program 2019 funding, including Lexington and northern Kentucky.

– Follow News Director Wes Swietek on Twitter @BGDNgovtbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.