An Opt-in Melting Pot

Image by Miss Vine from Pixabay

“Hey! Where are you from?”

“I’m from New York.”

“Oh, I love New York City!”

“Well, uh, no. I’m not from New York City. I’m actually from Upstate New York.”

“Oh. But you can go into the city anytime because you’re close, right?”

“Well, if by close you mean six to eight hours away, then yeah. I’m close.”

This is a conversation anyone who lives where I’m from has had numerous times. People who live outside of the state of New York often don’t remember that there is an actual state and not just New York City. And it’s okay. Every time we have a conversation like this, it gives us the chance to talk up the great things that come with living where we do.

And sure, there are negatives. There are any place you live.

I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older that more and more people are leaving New York each year. And this is going to pose a real threat to the upstate economy sooner rather than later.

As the “Boomer” generation ages out of the workforce, there are fewer people waiting in the wings to fill those jobs. This makes businesses and investors all the more willing to flock to the coasts and the big cities where the people are. And the areas that are left behind trudge ever further down the slope into demographic decline.

Take for instance that 48,510 residents of New York (the state) in 2017 were not residents of the state in 2018. They left. And they aren’t coming back.

Can this be fixed?

Interesting question.

Is this just a natural progression of things. And if it is, does it require “fixing”? Business ebbs and flows. There are boom times and there are bust times. This has been the case throughout most of American history.

For example, a city close to me was once the flour capital of the world. Then production moved to the Midwest and so did that title and the jobs at the mills. The city reinvented itself. And it is at the point, given demographics and economic conditions, where doing it again is becoming necessary.

One way to reinvent is to have an influx of new people. Where would they come from? People are moving away, not moving in. So one think tank’s idea is what they call a “Heartland Visa”.

The idea is that “place-based visas” would be given to skilled immigrants to come live in the United States in these demographically and economically strapped areas. And unlike forced immigrant locations of the past, this idea would require the economic development to be a dual “opt-in” where the community and the immigrants would agree to do it.

It’s almost as if this idea would be the reverse of the Emma Lazarus poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty. It is not the tired, poor, huddled masses that we would be accepting. Instead it would be those that want to invest and give a shot in the arm to stagnating economies.

There is something intriguing about the idea of these cities and rural areas around the country becoming smaller versions of the New York City “melting pot”.

And if that happens, then I guess we can all be from New York.

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