ST. CLOUD --

Central Minnesota is home to a growing population of immigrants. With that growth comes an increasing impact on the regional economy.

According to Concordia-St. Paul Professor Bruce Corrie, immigrants have a combined purchasing power of $179 million dollars in Benton, Sherburne and Stearns Counties. Foreign-born citizens also contribute over $54 million in local taxes here in Central Minnesota.

The City of St. Cloud is also seeing an increase of commerce as immigrants are creating businesses. According to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners, 270 minority firms generated over $24 million in sales with an annual payroll of $4.6 million in the Granite City.

However, there are challenges with increasing immigrant populations.

Monica Garcia-Perez is an assistant professor of economics at St. Cloud State University. She says a growing migrant workforce can mean fewer jobs available for locals.

(Press play to hear comments from Monica Garcia-Perez.)

Results from the 2010 American Community Survey show migrant workers make up 13% of production operative workers and 12% of general laborers in Stearns County.

Critics of increasing immigration often point to the possibility of abuse within social safety net programs. Garcia-Perez says this is just one example of a common stereotype.

(Press play to hear comments from Monica Garcia-Perez.)

 

Click for larger image. (Infographic courtesy of Immigration Policy Center)

 

Figures from the Immigration Policy Center for Minnesota's migrant populations highlight additional economic benefits. Asians add $5.9 billion in purchasing power annually while Asian-owned businesses had a total of $2.4 billion in sales and receipts in 2007.

Somalis -- with an estimated population of 32,000 -- account for more than $164 million in purchasing power and owned over 600 businesses as of 2006.

Although the vast majority of immigrants are here legally, a portion of "illegal" or undocumented immigrants are also living in the region. Estimates by the Immigration Policy Center show there are 60,000 immigrants without proper credentials in the state. According to the group, if removed, the state would lose $4.4 billion in economic activity.

This is part two of a five part series, examining immigrant populations in Central Minnesota.