The study was done by Gateways for Growth and New American Economy and was sponsored by Welcoming Fort Wayne, Associated Churches and the Northeast Regional Partnership.
The study said in the last five years immigrants have contributed to 24.7% of Northeast Indiana’s population growth. The study also said 1,299 manufacturing jobs would have vanished or gone elsewhere were it not for the immigration population.
“Immigrants and refugees are a viable part of our local and regional economy,” Melissa Rinehart, lead organizer for Welcoming Fort Wayne said. “But beyond the data….more importantly for me, they’re an important part of the cultural fabric. I’m a fourth generation immigrant. A lot of my friends come from other parts of the world who are first generation, second generation. This impacts all of us.”
Experts on this study said it does not necessarily reflect immigration activity at the border. Rather it reflects the immigration activity in Northeast Indiana.
“if we didn’t have a Greek Fest, if we didn’t have a German Fest in downtown Fort Wayne, it sure would be a different place to live,” said Michael Galbraith of he Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.
Other experts say the numbers could have an impact on future goals.
“I would love to have a cultural academy some day that teaches them how to live life successfully here,” Rinehart said. “It’s hard to pack up and move and go somewhere else and you don’t know the culture. You don’t know the language. I can only imagine how tough it was for my great grandfather.”
Rinehart said to “stay tuned” to see the lasting impact of this study.