The mission of the St. Louis Regional Chamber is to “inspire a greater St. Louis.” That means making the metro area even more attractive to a workforce that can help local businesses create jobs and grow the economy. The area’s burgeoning immigrant and refugee community — hailing from Bosnia, Mexico, India, China and beyond — is one of the most important assets in achieving this mission.

Whether they attend one of St. Louis’ many world-class universities, or own a small business like FroYo, a frozen yogurt business founded by Malaysian entrepreneur Jason Jan, every immigrant family calling the metro home makes it stronger. They contribute to much-needed population growth while reinvigorating the local economy and adding valuable cultural diversity to the community.

Cities are catching on to this fact — and the competition for foreign-born talent is heating up across the country. That’s why the bipartisan group New American Economy teams up with mayors’ offices and chambers of commerce to quantify the economic contributions of immigrant communities and develop strategies to attract, welcome and integrate these newcomers. In fact, 25 communities received awards through the Gateways for Growth Challenge, which New American Economy and Welcoming America co-run to foster a greater public-private commitment to immigrant integration.


St. Louis is already ahead of the pack. The metro area set a goal of having America’s fastest-growing immigrant population by 2020. Thanks to the Mosaic Project, a partnership of regional business, government, civic and educational leaders that joined forces with employers and educational institutions, St. Louis claimed that title for growth between 2014 and 2015.

There are now 129,000 immigrants and refugees who call the St. Louis metro area home, accounting for 4.4 percent of the total population. And young immigrants, especially the so-called “Dreamers,” embody the metro area’s greatest strengths. Dreamers came to the U.S. as children, have a spotless criminal record, and voluntarily registered their information with the federal government to enroll in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Since 2012, the DACA program has granted work permits and protection from deportation to 800,000 young immigrants nationwide, helping them come out of the shadows, work legally, and realize their economic potential.