A study finds immigrants contribute $1 billion to the McLean County economy every year

ISU study finds positive immigrant impacts on economic development in McLean County.
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 6:14 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - Illinois State University’s Stevenson Center and BN Welcoming presented their study on immigrant impacts on Tuesday at the McLean County Museum of History.

The people behind this study looked at data from the 2019 Census for McLean County. They took data from all immigrants not born in the United States, no matter their current status.

The study says in 2019, there were 11,874 immigrants living in McLean County, which is 6.9% of the entire population, an increase of 2.6% since 2015. Immigrants also represent 5.7% of the working-age population and 7.8% of the employed labor force.

“It means a lot because we live in the community and are part of the community. Initially, when I came here, there were not too many, so it was a hardship,” said Surinder Sethi, a McLean County immigrant from India. “Now I can see a lot of people from different parts of the world in Bloomington-Normal, which was not a sight when I came here 46 years ago.”

The study found that immigrants contribute $1 billion to the McLean County economy every year. In 2019, they earned $494 million locally, paying $32.1 million in local and state taxes and $42.9 million in federal taxes. That leaves immigrants with $419.2 million in spending power.

Charlotte Alvarez, executive director of the Immigration Project, says Bloomington-Normal is attractive because of its economic opportunities. She says the number of universities also pulls people to study in the area and teach at those schools.

“We’ve been in this community for the last 46 years, and that’s the longest we’ve stayed at one place, and we consider this to be our hometown because that’s where our kids were born and raised, and we love it,” Sethi said.

Sethi says they have two daughters. The older one is a physician, and the younger daughter is a speech-language pathologist.

Alvarez says she thinks it’s important for people to know that when immigrants are making a positive impact in their community, everyone benefits, whether it’s from increased tax revenue, extra businesses, or increased entrepreneurship.

“In mainstream narratives, there’s this idea that immigrants are a drain on our resources instead of the reality, which is immigrants are really a positive impact on our community, and they’re a help to our community,” Alvarez said.

The study also shows that of the 11,874 immigrants in McLean County, a majority have lived there for at least five years. They make up 10.2% of all homeowners, controlling $645 million in property value. And about 5,000 have become full naturalized citizens.

Sethi says he loves seeing the overall success in McLean County.

“Gradually, when I built my relationship with the local community and the people around me, I felt at home, and I’m just like everyone else,” Sethi said.