Newsweek: Somalis save Lewiston, ME by bringing population growth

Update Jan. 24th:   Thanks to Mars for sending this update.  I knew it couldn’t be true and now comes an article from the local paper about the disappointment the residents feel about the very incomplete  picture Newsweek has painted of the town.  Will post more in a little while.  Here is my post.

Update Jan. 21st:   AP is reporting some of the real truth, employment is over 50% for Somalis in Lewiston, ME area.

Update Jan. 18th:   Recent report says immigrants cost the economy more than they add, so how can Lewiston now be booming?

Everyone has heard the horror stories about the Somalis who found Lewiston, ME about eight years ago and came en masse.  The mayor at the time wrote a letter to Somali leaders asking them please to not encourage more refugees to come to Lewiston and that caused a firestorm of criticism.   The local folks were called racists by the big city folks reading the big city papers.  Here is an article from VDARE at the time.

Now Newsweek tells us Lewiston has become a boom town thanks to the immigrants.

That was before a family of Somali refugees discovered Lewiston in 2001 and began spreading the word to immigrant friends and relatives that housing was cheap and it looked like a good place to build new lives and raise children in peace. Since then, the place has been transformed. Per capita income has soared, and crime rates have dropped. In 2004, Inc. magazine named Lewiston one of the best places to do business in America, and in 2007, it was named an “All-America City” by the National Civic League, the first time any town in Maine had received that honor in roughly 40 years. “No one could have dreamed this,” says Chip Morrison, the local Chamber of Commerce president. “Not even me, and I’m an optimist.”

Africans continue to arrive.

….. the Somalis kept coming, followed by Sudanese, Congolese and other Africans. By some estimates, 4,000 new immigrants have moved to Lewiston since 2001, and dozens are still arriving every month.

But, Newsweek never really tells you what is making the economy boom.  There is still no major industry.  Certainly a few African shops  and restaurants aren’t going to fuel the whole economy.   All I can figure is that it is a government based economy.  By that I mean, government grants and special loan programs for refugees help open shops.  Language teachers are needed and are hired with federal grants.  Refugees receive food stamps and other types of welfare and get special treatment from lending institutions to purchase homes (where have I heard that before?). 

Newsweek might have more fairly balanced this article with quotes from a few critics.   Surely there are even some environmental types in Maine who do not buy the  ‘expand the population formula’ for economic growth.

“Increasingly, there’s an acceptance that immigration is associated with good economic growth,” says urban-studies specialist Richard Florida, director of the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute. “How is Maine going to grow? It’s a big state with a sparse population. One of the ways to grow quickly is import people.”

To top off the joy the economic boom has brought to Lewiston,  the refugees have brought that most cherished of all community attributes—cultural diversity.

Cultural diversity was the missing piece.” The question is whether the rest of Maine—and other states like it—can find their own missing pieces.

Hey, states that have tiny or non-existent immigrant populations such as Montana, Wyoming, and West Virginia, eat your hearts out!

Endnote:  I just searched our archives for Somalis in Lewiston stories and there are some unhappy locals there still.    Here is one in particular.   Amazing how that Newsweek reporter found no one with a differing opinion.  The stories coming from Lewiston are so diametrically opposed that it makes me wonder what the real truth could be.

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