Rust Belt cities lure immigrants to restore growth

Detroit and other population-drained cities are trying to attract foreigners to resettle empty neighborhoods.

By Aimee Picchi May 14, 2013 7:07AM

Abandoned Rowhouses (© Kevin B. Moore, Flickr, Getty Images)Pittsburgh was once a city of immigrants, lured to the smoke-filled town by the promise of steady work in the steel mills. 

In the century since the last immigration boom, the mills have largely shut down and factory jobs have moved to places with cheaper labor. And Pittsburgh and other Rust Belt cities have suffered from what was once unthinkable: a population decline.

Now such industrial cities are betting a new influx of immigrants can help rescue them from woes of a collapsing population, such as a decimated tax base, abandoned houses and a decline in services. Detroit, perhaps the poster city for the ill effects of a population meltdown, was the focus of a grim new report on Sunday that said the city faces a bleak future

It's little wonder, then, that Pittsburgh, Detroit, St. Louis and other Rust Belt cities are making a concerted effort to welcome immigrants. 

"We've had neighborhoods decimated by population loss, and the only way we rebuild is by bringing new people here," Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto told The Wall Street Journal.

Some cities are hiring staffers to work on luring newcomers, while others are trying to find jobs for international students at local businesses, The Journal notes. The Rust Belt has largely missed out on an immigration boom that has boosted the country's foreign-born population by 25% during the past decade. 

Pittsburgh's population declined by 8.6% from 2000 to 2010, according to the University of Pittsburgh. Detroit's losses were even worse, with 25% of its population leaving what was once the country's fourth-largest city. Still known as Motown, Detroit has been hit hard by job losses from automakers such as Ford (F) and Chrysler.

The nonprofit Global Detroit is working to revitalize the city by welcoming immigrants and foreign trade, while Pittsburgh has the nonprofit Vibrant Pittsburgh seeking to recruit foreign-born workers to the city. 

But as the Journal notes, it's not always clear whether immigrants add to the labor pool or take jobs that native workers would have otherwise held. There's also concern that native residents in the Rust Belt might feel resentful and fear being left behind. 

Still, for some struggling cities, trying to attract immigrants is a last-ditch effort to keep the economic situation from getting even more dire. 

Or, as Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, wrote in his report on Sunday: "What is clear . . . is that continuing along the current path is an ill-advised and unacceptable course of action if the city is to be put on the path to a sustainable future."

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi

More on moneyNOW

May 14, 2013 6:51PM
Immigrants need jobs just like everyone else.  If there are no jobs in Detroit, why would they come?
May 15, 2013 5:07PM
These Rust Belt cities have no business bringing in immigrants while any one American Citizen is on Welfare & Food Stamps.  Put these people to work first .  When the economy has regained momentum then the door may open but not till then.
May 15, 2013 1:03PM

It’s time for Lady Liberty to retire. We do not need any more of the worlds tired or poor; huddled masses, wretched refuse or homeless, we have enough of our own. If you have not yet grasped the concept of freedom and liberty in your own country, that’s your problem. We have more than enough of those who have stolen and cheated their way into this country. We do not have enough jobs for our own true citizens. Put the word out… The U.S.A is full; we don’t want you or need you, stay home.

May 16, 2013 2:34PM
There are thousand of unemployed residents in Detroit. What is the purpose of adding immigrants? The statement from the emergency manager said nothing about immigrants. There are more people out of work than the government numbers. Unemployment is counted only by the people receiving unemployment benefits'. Once that end, they are no longer counted???
May 20, 2013 12:18PM

Restore growth by having America's middleclass work harder with longer hours, and lose and liquidate their savings and property assets to have for these new people's needs?


 Anyway our money will wind up being funneled into Wall Street to be skimmed from by the upper 1 percent. I guess that's what they call growth these days.

May 14, 2013 7:37AM
Great ship all the low life illegals to Detroit, then we can blow up the city.
May 15, 2013 9:19AM

Unions ( MAFIA ) are just trying to increase their base for democrats!

May 14, 2013 9:37AM
Dear Someone, Unless you happen to be a Native American your ancestors must have been "low life illegals" also.
May 14, 2013 11:24AM

"dear" someone, "dear" someone....??

The "someone" jdmeck, has severe mental problems, and a Third Reich attitude..

Probably should be locked up.....Maybe is ??


And RUstpd...So the Siberians came from Africa, AND YOUR POINT WOULD BE ??

Yes there were Native Americans upon the Lands of the Americas,long before the Euro-trash arrived.

Many of the Indians, had quite well developed Cultures comparable to the rest of the World.

Some were well more advanced..With Tribal Governments and Councils and Religions they believed in.

Several of the Immigrants to this Nation, adopted many of their principals...

Other immigrants only became a scourge to the America's Indians...

May 14, 2013 10:23AM
Dear someone.... Were you inferring all illegals are low lifes and thus all should be shipped to Detroit, or did you mean only the illegals that are low lifes should be shipped to Detriot, or is "low life illegals" a euphenism ( for any person that is a low life? 
May 14, 2013 4:09PM
All illegals are low life scum that are invading our country. The punishment should be death. and Detroit is just a toilet anyway.
May 14, 2013 11:18AM
This artice will bring out sound advice from the Archie Bunker`s out there.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

Trending NOW

What’s this?


[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market finished an upbeat week on a mixed note. The S&P 500 shed less than a point, ending the week higher by 1.3%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.1%) cemented a 1.7% advance for the week. High-beta names underperformed, which weighed on the Nasdaq Composite (-0.3%) and the Russell 2000 (-1.3%).

Equity indices displayed strength in the early going with the S&P 500 tagging the 2,019 level during the opening 30 minutes of the action. However, ... More