Immigrants Impact Southwest Florida

Our future workforce

The residents of Southwest Florida are getting older and retiring, just as the demand for skilled workers in many fields is increasing. Workforce Now, a 2016 regional workforce initiative that projected employment gaps in key growth industries such as health care, construction and hospitality, starkly demonstrated the need for immigrants and their families.  Immigrant economic activity has a demonstrable positive impact on the local economy through:

  • Workforce skills contributed
  • Industry employment gap coverage
  • Housing demand
  • Job creation
  • Income generated and taxes paid

Income and Tax Contributions

Foreign-born individuals in Southwest Florida contribute as income earners, taxpayers, and spenders. In 2014, immigrant households in the region earned over $3 billion, approximately 14% of all income earned by Southwest Floridians that year. With those earnings, the state’s foreign-born households were able to contribute about $768M of the tax revenues paid by state residents. These payments support critical public services such as public schools, firefighters, police, and infrastructure maintenance.

Contributions further promote economic activity with consumption at local businesses such as grocery stores, coffee shops, and restaurants, promoting job creation at the local level. In Southwest Florida, immigrant households held $2.2 billion in spending power in 2014, which are characterized as net income once federal, state, and local taxes are met. Among foreign-born earners, Hispanic immigrants in particular had the most spending power.

Healthcare:

One example of an employment field in which immigrants make a strong contribution in Southwest Florida is healthcare.  Approximately 46% of the area’s households are over 50 years old, leading to increased demand for healthcare services. A Workforce Now report, projecting the needs of local employers in Southwest Florida, concludes that healthcare will be one of the fastest growing industries between 2014 and 2022, adding 1,460 jobs per year.

Immigrant healthcare practitioners accounted for more than one in four nurses in Florida in 2014, and close to two in five individuals working as nursing, psychiatric, or home health aides. Some were highly skilled nurses and physicians in their home countries.  Assuming a similar ratio at a micro-level for the Southwest Florida area, close to 106 of the 534 projected nurses gap filled by immigrant workers would add an additional $7.9 million in incomes generated.

Addressing other employment gaps

Sustained economic growth and diversification in the region poses significant challenges for the region’s workforce requirements. Economists predict more than 1,200 current positions need to be filled due to gaps in skills and available labor. Some of these (~147) are in the groundskeeping and landscaping trade, while others (~344) are in the food prep industry; both of these are areas where low-skilled immigrant workers thrive. The combined additional income generated, forecasted at more than $106.7 million would have a stimulating effect on the local economy and drive further growth.

Housing

In Southwest Florida, immigrants are actively strengthening the state’s housing market. In 2014, approximately 60% of immigrant-led households held title and ownership to a home. In a region with nearly 210,000 vacant housing units, and where immigrant families made up more than one in four new homebuyers from 2010 to 2014, this number is significant, as it translates to 30,000 potential new buyers, benefiting homebuilders and all construction-related companies.

Job Creation

Immigrants are not only employees in other peoples’ businesses. Many start small businesses of their own, and provide the economic backbone of “Main Streets” in many communities. Studies by researchers at Indiana University and University of Virginia peg local economy job creation at 1.2 jobs per immigrant-held position. In plain terms, if 1,000 new immigrants were added to the local workforce, the local economy would gain approximately 1,200 new jobs.

Our Future Workforce