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Posted on: August 27, 2018

Report Finds Foreign-Born Residents Contributed $1.2 Billion to Portland-Metro GDP in 2016


Immigrants in the Portland, ME metro area contributed $1.2 billion to the area’s GDP in 2016 and paid $133 million in federal taxes and $62 million in state and local taxes, according to a new report by New American Economy (NAE), in partnership with the Portland Office of Economic Opportunity and the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce. The report was presented during a press conference featuring Portland mayor Ethan Strimling hosted by the City of Portland at City Hall.

In addition to their financial contributions, the new report outlines the important role immigrants and refugees play in the Portland labor force and as drivers of population growth. In the City of Portland and the surrounding area, the foreign-born population accounted for more than 75 percent of population growth from 2011 to 2016. And in the metro area, though they make up just 4.6 percent of the population, immigrants account for 5.1 percent of the working-age population and 6 percent of all workers in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, industries where Maine is facing significant labor shortages. In fact, there are 11 open STEM positions for every one unemployed STEM worker. The report also shows that immigrants in the Portland metro area fill key jobs on across the skills spectrum, from teachers to housekeepers.

“In Portland, there is cross-sector consensus that the retention and attraction of diverse immigrant talent is vital to sustain the region’s growth,” said Julia Trujillo Luengo, Director of the Portland, ME Office of Economic Opportunity. “This report is key in order to put forth an immigrant integration agenda that is inspirational, meaningful and quantifiable. This report also highlights the crucial and exciting partnership between Chamber and the City of Portland's Office of Economic Opportunity. Both institutions are thrilled to work in tandem in order to put forth an ambitious immigrant integration agenda.”

“Portland has become the confluence for so many different cultures and people, and we are starting to see that evolve in the professional landscape, as well,” said Quincy Hentzel, CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce. “There’s a new energy in the business sector as more and more entrepreneurs—both new to the country and new to the market—continue to start businesses and contribute to our growing economy to the tune of adding more than a billion dollars to Portland’s GDP and contributing almost $200 million in state and federal taxes.”

“Immigration lifts the U.S. economy, and Portland is the latest city with the local data to help prove it,” said John Feinblatt, President of New American Economy. “Portland’s newcomers continue to broaden the tax base, start businesses, and fill critical jobs across every sector.”

The brief, New Americans in Portland, ME, finds:

  • Immigrants contributed $1.2 billion to the Portland metro area’s GDP in 2016. Immigrant households earned $678.7 million in income in 2016 and held $521.3 million in spending power.
  • Given their income, immigrants contributed significantly to federal, state, and local taxes. Immigrants paid $133 million in federal taxes and $62 million in state and local taxes in 2016.
  • Immigrants were responsible for 75.2 percent of population growth in the City of Portland and surrounding cities between 2011 and 2016. Over those five years, the total population increased by 1.5 percent, while the immigrant population increased by 12.2 percent.
  • Despite making up just 4.6 percent of the overall population in the metro area, immigrants played an outsize role in the labor force in 2016. Foreign-born workers represented 5.1 percent of the working-age population and 6 percent of all workers in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields in the Portland metro area.
  • Immigrants in the Portland metro area were more likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to have a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2016. 36.8 percent of immigrants had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2016, compared to 30 percent of the U.S.-born. And 12.8 percent of immigrants had an advanced degree—the same share as the U.S.-born.
  • Immigrants play an outsize role in several key industries in the area. Though they are 4.6 percent of the population, foreign-born workers made up 6.5 percent of all workers in the manufacturing industry and 5.4 percent of workers in the healthcare industry.
  • More than half—55.6 percent— of immigrants and refugees in the Portland metro area were naturalized citizens in 2016.

Read the full research brief here.

Portland is one of 44 communities selected for the Gateways for Growth Challenge, a competitive opportunity from New American Economy and Welcoming America where local communities receive tailored research on the contributions of immigrants, direct technical assistance to develop multi-sector plans for welcoming and integrating immigrants, or matching grants.

About New American Economy

New American Economy (NAE) brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today. Coalition members include mayors of more than 35 million people nationwide and business leaders of companies that generate more than $1.5 trillion and employ more than 4 million people across all sectors of the economy, from Agriculture to Aerospace, Hospitality to High Tech and Media to Manufacturing. Learn more at

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