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Report details immigrants' effect on economy of central Arkansas

By Eric Besson

This article was published May 1, 2018 at 5:49 p.m.

Immigrants living in central Arkansas paid more than $240 million in local, state and federal taxes in 2016, according to a report published Tuesday that details the economic effect of foreign-born residents.

Roughly 29,000 immigrants — more than one-third from Mexico — lived in the six-county metropolitan area that year, making up 4 percent of the population, according to the report. They made up 5.3 percent of the area’s working-age population and 9 percent of the area’s workers in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jay Chesshir discussed the report at a joint news conference. The chamber received a grant from New American Economy to produce the report, which is based largely on Census data.

[DOCUMENT: Read the full report]

“It’s so very important that we recognize and appreciate and applaud and embrace the immigrant population in our city,” Stodola said.

New American Economy last year selected Little Rock and 24 other communities to participate in its second “Gateways for Growth” program. The program also includes developing a plan to help immigrants integrate into the community.

New American Economy was co-founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch, the media tycoon whose portfolio includes Fox News. More than 500 mayors and business leaders — Republicans and Democrats — have partnered with the group, according to its website.

“The Little Rock region is blessed to have a diverse culture and economy,” Chesshir said. “This diversity is a major selling point when we’re marketing our region to the outside world.”

In the context of the report, the word immigrant means anyone born outside of the U.S., regardless of their legal status, a New American Economy spokesman said.

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