Feb 25, 2013
Bill McMeekin
Bill McMeekin
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Foreign-Born Population Growth Hotspots: Where and Why

Nashville, TN

Whether it’s places on the map shaded red  or blue, foreign-born workers are headed to greener pastures, the places in the United States that are adding jobs.

In an article out last week, NewGeography.com’s Joel Kotkin examines a recent analysis of population trends in  U.S. metros by demographer Wendell Cox that finds communities with the fastest-growing percentage of foreign-born residents are in “nontraditional” places such as Nashville, Birmingham, Louisville and Charlotte.

Noting that the debate over immigration has often been framed as “between immigrant-tolerant blue states and regions and their less welcoming red counterparts,” Kotkin details how the growth rate in immigrant populations is trending faster in “surprising”  Bible Belt regions rather than in the traditional big city immigration hubs such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Here are the cities cited in the study with the fastest growth in population of foreign born residents between 2001 and 2011:

No.1:  Nashville, TN
No. 2:  Birmingham, AL
No.  3: Indianapolis, IN
No. 4: Louisville, KY
No. 5: Charlotte, NC
No. 6: Richmond,VA
No. 7: Raleigh,NC
No. 8: Orlando, FL
No 9: Jacksonville,FL
No. 10: Columbus, OH
No. 11: Austin, TX

As Kotkin points out, the results should not really be surprising. These communities overall are doing a better job than most in creating jobs, generating new investment, developing innovative industry sectors and attracting talent, foreign-born or otherwise –  and, relatively speaking, they are all cheaper places to live than their bigger city counterparts.

Austin and Raleigh are in the top three on the 2012 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities ranking, which weights factors such as job creation and technology sector growth. Austin, Raleigh, Charlotte and Louisville were in the top 20 on bizjournals.com’s best markets for small business vitality.

And communities like Nashville, Charlotte are major centers of foreign direct investment, and those FDI companies, in addition to hiring locally, often bring in talent from the home office overseas. Among Nashville’s major employers are Nissan and Bridgestone, both of which have their North American headquarters there. Charlotte has more than 950 foreign-owned companies in its region, including major presence from the likes of Daimler, Bosch, Toshiba and Siemens.

All of these cities also include major research institutions and/or large universities that attract large numbers of international students, many of whom often take up residence in the community once they finish school, as well as international faculty and researchers.

One thrust of Kotkin’s article is how these population trends might benefit Red States in the long run, and he notes that the states the top cities are in “either voted for Mitt Romney last year or have state governments under Republican control. None easily fit the impression of liberally minded immigrant attracting bastions from only a decade ago.”

Another way of looking at it is that most of these cities are big blue dots in their otherwise red states. In Nashville, Barack Obama carried more than 58 percent of the vote in the 2012 election. In Travis County, which includes Austin, Obama took 60 percent of the vote in the 2012 election. Obama also carried Birmingham, Indianapolis, Louisville, Charlotte and 10 of the top 11 overall.

If we’re looking at “flyover states” in a different way, perhaps it’s time to take another look at Red and Blue. And the real question that remains to be answered is the influence the rising tide of foreign-born populations will have in making these states redder or bluer.


From who’s coming into the country to what’s going out of it: New numbers on exports show most states making gains in export volume from 2011 to 2012. Overall, exports rose 4.6 percent last year, a much more modest increase compared to the nearly 16 percent jump from 2010 to 2011.

For the 11th straight year, Texas lead all states in export volumes. Here’s the top five, according to WISERTrade and the percentage increase or decrease from 2011:

1. Texas: $265.4 billion/+ 5.7%
2. California: $161.7 billion/+1.6%
3. New York: $79.2 billion/ – 6.7%
4. Washington: $75.5 billion/ +16.6%
5. Illinois: %68.0 billion/ +4.9


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