• Missouri Public Affairs Network hears from new Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft

    Feb 14, 2017

    The St. Louis Regional Chamber hosted a Missouri Public Affairs Network meeting on Friday, February 10th. Those in attendance heard from newly inaugurated Missouri Secretary of State John “Jay” Ashcroft about his transition to statewide office and his priorities for 2017. The meeting started with Network members discussing their legislative priorities.

    Secretary Ashcroft gave remarks for about 20 minutes before taking questions. Ashcroft indicated that several of the priorities mentioned by network members were problems he heard from Missourians across the state during his campaign. Highest on that list was Missouri’s regulatory system, which Ashcroft said “is killing out state’s small businesses.” Moving forward, Ashcroft hopes to use his office to “get government out of the way” of the state’s entrepreneurs in order to “create opportunity for everyone in Missouri.” He acknowledged these reforms must include drastic changes at the national level including reigning in federal regulation.

    Ashcroft also spoke about continued momentum on important issues at the state level including Right to Work and tax reform, and highlighted the important role Missouri’s community colleges and public libraries play in building stronger communities. He finished by mentioning his office’s work implementing the state’s new Voter ID law. Following his remarks, attendees asked questions about state government modernization and the upcoming priorities of the Missouri legislature.

    Missouri Secretary of State John “Jay” Ashcroft speaks to MOPAN members at the St. Louis Regional Chamber
    Missouri Secretary of State John “Jay” Ashcroft speaks to MOPAN members at the St. Louis Regional Chamber
  • Chamber Reaffirms Commitment to Welcoming Foreign-Born and Refugees

    Jan 30, 2017

    St. Louis will only be successful if we attract new talent to our region.  Immigrants are a critical part of our economic development—they are thirty percent more likely to start a business and twice as likely to have a doctoral degree.  This combination of education and a comfort with risk-taking results in job creation and improves the economic environment for all people in our region. 

    Our position on the benefits immigrants and refugees bring to our region is long-standing and unchanged by the recent executive order barring travel for nationals of seven nations and suspending the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.  We think this post by Joe Reagan from December of 2015 explains it best:

    Welcoming Refugees Makes St. Louis Strong
    by Joe Reagan | Dec 01, 2015

    The St. Louis Regional Chamber is driven by one overriding purpose – to inspire a greater St. Louis.  Study after study shows that immigration to Missouri, including settlement of fully screened refugees, provides both an economic benefit and is in line with our core values as a nation.  Being a welcoming community, particularly to those fleeing war and persecution, makes St. Louis stronger.  We have been disappointed to observe some of our national leaders call for Congress to halt the entry of refugees, particularly Syrian refugees, to the United States.  Similarly, we have been disappointed to hear some in Missouri call for refugees to be barred from settlement in our state.  The Chamber strongly supports efforts to ensure Missouri remains welcoming to those who want to come here to start a new life and contribute to our economy and society.

    The economic benefits refugees bring to Missouri and to the St. Louis region are real and significant. Some examples include:

    • Since 1999, resettled refugees have resulted in an estimated $160 million in direct economic impact to the St. Louis region.
    • In 2013 alone, the International Institute of St. Louis facilitated 415 job placements that earned an estimated $9 million in labor income for the region, providing a total direct economic output (the value of industry production for these workers) of over $90 million.  
    • In 2014, the Institute facilitated 556 placements with an average wage of $8.68, resulting in just over $450,000 in state tax revenue for these workers.  More broadly, an estimated 10,000 adult refugees work in the St. Louis Region alone, which translates into millions in state tax revenue each year.

    These economic benefits have been demonstrated in other states as well.  A 2012 study of refugee costs and benefits in Cleveland found local refugee services agencies spent about $4.8 million that year to help refugees get established in the area.  The study found the positive economic impact those refugees had on the community was nearly $48 million, roughly 10 times the initial resettlement costs.

    Missouri has been blessed with a vibrant and growing entrepreneurial community.  Multiple studies on refugees have found that they are more likely to be entrepreneurs and enjoy higher rates of successful business ventures compared to native-born.  In addition refugees increase demand for goods and services in local markets and can be particularly beneficial to communities that have declining populations, such as the City of St. Louis.  We have a recent example of such a strong, vibrant refugee community with as many as 50,000 Bosnian-Americans who have started families, created jobs and contributed to economic growth right here in St. Louis.

    As Americans we have long prided ourselves for being the refuge of those fleeing tyranny or oppression.  While the Statue of Liberty may not have initially been sculpted as a symbol of immigration, the plaque mounted on the Statue’s base confirms our century-old invitation to the less fortunate with its line “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” 

    Turning our back on refugees betrays our core values as a welcoming, diverse community that benefits from the contributions of all our immigrants. It sends the wrong message that Missouri is making judgments about people based on their religion or country of origin.  President Reagan saw our country in much the same way, as “a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

    We can welcome refugees while keeping our families and communities safe.  Refugees are the most thoroughly screened group of people who come to the United States, with background checks and security screenings including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon and multiple intelligence agencies.  Federal officials interview each refugee to determine whether they are true refugees and whether they are admissible to the United States. They then undergo a series of biometric and background checks, which is compared against government databases. This process typically takes more than two years before the refugee would arrive in the U.S.

    Our country is at its finest when it provides the example for other nations to follow.  Our openhearted and inclusive spirit, especially when welcoming refugees fleeing war and persecution, should continue to be an example for the world.