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Posts Tagged ‘economy’

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As you know from your earliest history classes, the first immigrants arrived in Virginia in 1607.

For good or evil, depending on how much you identify with an indigenous heritage, immigrants have made America what it is today. The migration started as early as 1607 in Virginia.

That’s what came to mind when I read this news story about the contribution of immigrants to the economy of present-day Virginia.

Katie O’Connor writes at the Virginia Mercury, “A new report from the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis says immigrants are key contributors to the state’s overall economy, despite challenges that include health insurance access, discrimination, language barriers, ‘brain waste’ and housing costs. …

“As many parts of Virginia struggle to find enough workers, many immigrants are ‘relatively young, well educated, fluent in English and more likely to participate in the workforce.’

“The one million immigrants in Virginia make up 12.5 percent of the state population. … And while immigration from Mexico tends to dominate the national debate, Virginia’s immigrant population comes from a wide variety of countries.

“ ‘Mexican immigrants make up just 5% of all immigrants in Virginia, fourth after people born in El Salvador (11%), India (9%), and Korea (6%),’ the report says. ‘Looking at continent of birth, rather than country of birth, there is a similar diversity. Forty-three percent of Virginia’s immigrant population was born in Asia, the largest group from any continent.’ Most of them are also between the prime working ages of 25 and 54. …

“ ‘Immigrants participate in Virginia’s workforce at a much higher rate than U.S.-born residents — 72 percent compared to 65 percent — and at a rate six percentage points higher than the national participation for foreign-born residents.’

“But the report also points to public policies that would help address the challenges immigrants face. More than one in three noncitizen residents lack access to health insurance in Virginia, ‘even worse than in the country as a whole,’ the report states. …

“Immigrants face all the challenges that come with lack of health insurance, like large medical bills and a lack of preventative care. Virginia is also one of only six states to require legal, noncitizens to work for at least 10 years before they qualify for Medicaid.

“Housing and poverty remain problems for the state’s immigrants, as does what’s called ‘brain waste’: when people aren’t working jobs that match their educational attainment.

“ ‘In Virginia, 21 percent of college-educated immigrants 25 and older are working in low-skill jobs or are unemployed. This is well above the average for U.S.-born Virginians,’ the report states. ‘Lawmakers, employers, and workforce development officials all have a role to play in reducing this needless inefficiency and maximizing opportunity for the state.’ ” More.

When a much-needed resource is right under our noses, it’s penny wise and pound foolish not to help it flourish.

Hat tip: Economic Policy Institute on twitter.

P.S. I can’t resist adding this poem by Emily Dickinson from today’s Boston Globe:
“These Strangers, in a foreign World,
“Protection asked of me—
“Befriend them, lest Yourself in Heaven
“Be found a Refugee—”

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Photo: Reuters/Bob Strong
Cities consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy. Copenhagen is a city that’s determined to become the first carbon-neutral capital and, in the process, is showing that sustainability improvements are good for the economy.

Copenhagen, where Erik’s Swedish-Danish relatives live, is showing the world that cutting carbon emissions to fight global warming can actually reduce energy prices and boost the economy. In a win-win for all concerned, big steps by the local energy company are complemented by the small steps of individuals who know that biking everywhere is good for both the environment and personal health.

Lin Taylor writes for the World Economic Forum, “Around the world, more than 70 major cities have pledged to end their reliance on fossil fuels and stop pumping out climate-changing emissions by 2050.

“But Copenhagen — a city of wind turbines, bicycles and reliable public transportation – thinks it can go even further: It intends to accomplish that shift in just seven years. It will require a complete reimagining of how the Danish capital is powered and designed — and a lot of cyclists. …

“While other cities have parking garages for cars, Copenhagen has them for bicycles. Virtually all its 600,000 residents own a bicycle, and the city has 375 kilometres of dedicated cycle lanes.

“The harbour-rimmed municipality also is mostly powered by clean energy — and it has its own renewable energy company and wind turbines. Running its own energy systems is one of the reasons Copenhagen is already well on track to being carbon neutral – meaning it will produce no more carbon emissions than it can offset elsewhere. …

“In 2017, Copenhagen produced about 1.37 million tonnes of climate-changing gases, down 40 percent from 2005, according to city figures. That’s about 2.2 tonnes of emissions per capita, one of the lowest rates for a European city. The city said the reduction in emissions was largely due to a switch to wind energy under HOFOR, the city’s own utility company. …

“Around the world, cities consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for about three-quarters of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the United Nations. That means finding ways for cities to become carbon neutral will be key to meeting the Paris commitment to keep the rise in global temperatures to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. …

“In its quest to cut emissions, Copenhagen has another distinct advantage: For over 100 years, the city — and Denmark as a whole — has relied on district heating, a system where heat is produced and supplied from one neighbourhood or area plant, instead of per household. That means the city itself can make the switch to cleaner energy for large numbers of residents, cutting carbon emissions by over half compared to the use of individual gas or oil boilers, HOFOR says.” It adds:

“The city also has a newly-built district cooling system, which uses seawater to cool buildings and households, cutting energy consumption up to 80 percent compared to traditional methods of air-conditioning.

“By 2025, the city aims to be powered entirely by wind, sun, geothermal energy, waste, and wood and other biomass. Yet despite its huge investment in new, clean technologies, one of the city’s big priorities is cutting prices for energy users. …

“[Jørgen Abildgaard, director of the city’s climate programme,] said it was crucial to work closely with industries such as construction and transport to devise business models and technologies that work both to meet business goals and cut emissions. …

“As the city’s emissions-cutting commitments have grown, so has its economy, which has seen 25 percent growth over the past two decades.” More at the World Economic Forum, here.

Photo: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Lin Taylor
On a typical day in August, numerous bicycles are parked on a street in central Copenhagen, Denmark.

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Photo: Bjørn/Book Towns
The book town of Fjærland, Norway. About 30 or 40 villages around the world have a high concentration of booksellers who are drawing visitors and building the local economy.

When I was writing my March post about Hobart, an upstate New York village that boasted five bookstores, I learned that the idea of being a “book town” wasn’t an entirely new concept. In fact, there may be as many as 40 book towns around the world.

Unsurprisingly, someone has written a book about them. Sarah Laskow interviewed Book Towns author Alex Johnson for Atlas Obscura.

“What makes a book town? It can’t be too big — not a city, but a genuine town, usually in a rural setting. It has to have bookshops — not one or two, but a real concentration, where a bibliophile might spend hours, even days, browsing. Usually a book town begins with a couple of secondhand bookstores and later grows to offer new books, too.”

Atlas Obscura: “What makes a good book town?”
Alex Johnson: “Well, they’re all very picturesque. That’s one of the reasons they generally get picked. They’re away from cities, so rents are low. … Often, they’ve been in places where economically things have been a bit slim, or the population’s been decreasing as the younger people move away into the cities. Hay-on-Wye, in Wales, was the first one, and it started in 1977.

“How have book towns changed over the past few decades?
“I think they’re actually quite similar to when [bookseller] Richard Booth came up with the idea. He started Hay as a book town very much to regenerate it — to provide employment, keep people in Hay, and provide an actual tourist destination. … Book towns are tiny little places, and people wouldn’t come to them otherwise. …

What does it take to set up a book town that will survive?
“They’ve got to be sensible about providing a large amount of bookshops. You can’t do it with one or two. You need plenty. You need to cover a range of things. Some of the most successful ones have been where it’s not just bookselling. There are publishers or printers or artists or designers. …

“Nearly all bookstore owners, especially secondhand ones, have their own interests. So they tend to specialize in things anyway. … A few places [have] quite a strong central group, but most of them are quite loose. They nearly all have booksellers associations, but it’s quite like a friendly cooperative. …

“If someone wanted to understand the range of book towns, what four or five would you send them to?
“I would definitely go to Hay. … Paju Book City in South Korea. There’s a huge number of publishers and printers there, as well as books. … Clunes, in Australia, has done a very good job of building themselves up. Originally it was a gold rush town, and they quite often shoot films there. …

“Wigtown, in Scotland, is a good example of a place that’s really regenerated. Twenty years ago, it was having a really tough time — shops and industries closing, people moving out. And they’ve absolutely turned it around.

More here.

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Photo: Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post
Denver Performing Arts Complex in 2017. The creative economy in Colorado accounted for 4.3 percent of the state’s gross domestic product in 2015, the most recent year for which data are available.

It can’t be stated too many times that the arts are often an important driver of local economies — and a reason for states and municipalities to help artists be successful. Rhode Island, for example, aims to help artists by not taxing art sales, but the lack of affordable housing in the state remains a big problem.

Joe Rubino writes at the Denver Post about Colorado’s creative economy, noting that anyone who saw a show at the local opera house in 2015, bought a painting or book by a Coloradan, or visited a local museum “contributed to the $13.7 billion arts and culture brought to the state’s economy that year, a figure that outdid both the mining and transportation sectors. …

“The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts on [March 7] unveiled their most recent analysis of the economic impact of arts and culture in the U.S. In 2015, the year with the most recent reporting data, goods and services generated by museums, architecture firms, artists and other artistically inclined businesses and agencies accounted for 4.3 percent of the Colorado’s GDP. …

“[Nationwide,] creative industries accounted for a $20 billion trade surplus that year, according to the analysis. Work in arts and culture accounted for 4.9 million U.S. jobs in 2015. Of those, 100,631 were in Colorado. …

“The analysis, collectively known as the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account, or ACPSA, looked at 36 industries that contributed to America’s arts and cultural economy. Some of them are considered core contributors — like museums and graphic design firms — and others are viewed as support industries [including] broadcasting. …

“When it comes to comparing states in the American West, arts and culture in Colorado ranked only behind California and Washington in terms of money made.”

More at the Denver Post, here.

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56876a3cc5470-imagePhoto: Richmond Register
When artist Ken Gastineau moved to Berea, Kentucky, in 1987, there were few artists working in Old Town. Today, with taxpayer support, artists have become Berea’s economic engine.

Residents of Berea, Kentucky, have long known that their arts college was internationally admired. But it wasn’t until the loss of local mining jobs, that people began to see the arts as their most promising economic engine.

Ivy Brashear writes at NextCity, “One of the things people notice after spending any amount of time in Berea’s historic downtown is the density of galleries. For a small city in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, there are a lot of them.

“The state-designated ‘Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky’ attracts visual artists, ceramicists and traditional craftspeople just like Nashville lures country musicians, albeit on a smaller scale. …

“City officials count 40 galleries in total, and three new restaurants and a gallery-cafe have opened in the past two years — not a bad showing of entrepreneurship in a city of fewer than 20,000 people.

“ ‘I believe we can legitimately claim we’re a town where art’s alive because any visitor, almost any time of the year, will be able to encounter active arts in motion,’ says Mayor Steve Connelly. …

“The little town that sprung up around Berea College [is] a rare growing, thriving city in a region that’s confronting steep population decline and rising rates of joblessness due in large part to the collapse of the coal industry. Eastern Kentucky alone has lost nearly 7,500 coal jobs since 2012. … The hope is for something place-based that can keep the economy humming while encouraging businesses to invest locally. In Berea, that thing is art and culture.

“Since 2010, the population of the city has grown by nearly 12 percent, making it one of the fastest growing places in the state. … With new people and businesses moving in, the city’s unemployment rate is four percent, compared to a statewide rate of five percent and a rate of seven percent in nearby communities, 2016 Census Bureau data shows.

“It’s difficult to make a direct connection between any one economic strategy and growth, but local officials say that their investment in building an arts economy has paid off because it gives people a reason to stay. …

“The [arts] culture was largely unsupported by any local government entity until about a decade ago. It was at this time that the city began to recognize what Connelly refers to as its ‘artistic infrastructure,’ and the need to invest in it. …

“It didn’t take long for local officials to recognize that Berea’s greatest local asset was its arts community, something that had been woven into the fabric of the town since the very beginning.

“Local artists were investing in Berea in big ways: by opening galleries and weaving shops, making and selling art, and starting local festivals that continue today.

“They were doing it largely on their own with little to no help from the government or Berea College. They were doing it because there was energy and synergy behind their efforts — a confluence of creativity and economy that city commissioners saw as an investment worth making.

“In 1982, the City Commission passed a hotel/motel tax and started a tourism commission. The World’s Fair was in Knoxville that year, and Berea wanted to catch I-75 travelers on their way south. The commission passed a 3 percent tax, and from 1982 to 2007, the all-volunteer tourism commission received about $125,000 a year from the tax.

“Further tax reform was made in 2007 during the Great Recession when Berea raised its property tax rate from the lowest in the state at .03 percent, to 10 percent. Soon after, they instituted a 3 percent restaurant tax, and the tourism budget quickly shot up to nearly one million dollars a year. …

“Berea Economic Development Director Danny Isaacs describes the decision to move away from traditional industries and look to the arts as a economic engine as one of sheer logic. …

“ ‘[Economic growth] goes back to building on what you have and what you’re known for,’ Isaacs says. ‘For Berea, the natural choice was arts and crafts.’ ”

More at NextCity, here.

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This year, I’ve been volunteering with refugee organizations — four altogether — and am always grateful for positive stories about this population. Here’s a story from Sweden.

Bridie Witton writes at the UK’s Independent, “Immigration has helped fuel Sweden’s biggest economic boom in five years, new figures have revealed.

“The Swedish government, whose policies saw the country take in more refugees per capita than any other in Europe last year, helped lower unemployment rates by increased spending on welfare for asylum seekers from war torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The move helped the Nordic region’s largest economy expand 4.5 percent on an annual basis in the fourth quarter of 2015, the most in almost five years and more than twice the growth of Germany, according to Bloomberg. Increased consumer spending and borrowing and high house prices also contributed to the boom which, although projected to fade, has consolidated Sweden as one of Europe’s success stories.

“National Institute of Economic and Social Research fellow Jonathan Portes said economies benefitted from more workers, but emphasised the difference between immigrants and refugees.

” ‘What the Swedish experience tells us is that even in the short term, even when you have a very large influx of refugees, there is a perception this is an impossible burden on the state,’ he told The Independent. ‘But in the short term it increases growth.’

“He said the Swedish government needed to have a long-term strategy to successfully integrate refugees and continue the growth.”

Careful planning is needed, for sure, but history shows that an influx of workers with needed skills helps countries grow.

More at the Independent, here.

Photo: Getty
Sweden took in more refugees per capita than any other country in Europe in 2015.

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Here’s a creative way to address the urgent need for housing in this country: make a deal with Canada to take the houses it doesn’t want anymore.

Kirk Johnson has the story at the NY Times.

“In the San Juan Islands of northwest Washington State, where a severe shortage of affordable housing threatens the economy and the community, a small nonprofit group has found an unlikely way to help anchor families that are struggling to stay — by lifting up unloved houses in Canada, hoisting them onto barges and hauling them to where they are needed. …

“The structures had what builders call good bones, and the group, the San Juan Community HomeTrust, discovered that the cost of transporting them across the Haro Strait from Canada and restoring them here was comparable to the cost of building from scratch. …

“The number of people living in poverty in the county has risen about 17 percent since the end of the recession in 2009, according to census figures, even as the economic recovery in Washington and around the nation gained steam.

“ ‘It’s kind life or death to keep our working families here,’ said Peter Kilpatrick, the project manager in refitting the houses to be imported by the San Juan Community HomeTrust. When the rewiring, painting and structural repairs are finished in June, buyers who have already met income and residency requirements can take possession.

“Through a combination of donated land, government and foundation grants and local fund-raising, the homes will cost the buyers — a hospital worker, several teachers and a massage therapist among them — from $160,000 to $210,000. The median market price here was almost $500,000 at the end of last year.” More here.

Nothing like a little recycling ingenuity applied to a problem! In fact, I was just commenting to a blogger who’s teaching in El Salvador that the locals’ skill at repairing and reusing items is a great foundation for creative problem solving in general. (Please read Milford Street’s report from El Salvador, here.)

Photo: Nancy DeVaux
Houses from Canada were transported by barge to the San Juan Islands in Washington State, where affordable housing is badly needed.

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