Florida, and na­tion, need im­mi­gra­tion to fill worker short­age and fuel our econ­omy

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - OPINION - By Bill Year­gin — — — Bill Year­gin is CEO of Cor­rect Craft, a ma­rine in­dus­try com­pany based in Or­lando with six man­u­fac­tur­ing plants around the U.S. He also is a mem­ber of the Florida Coun­cil of 100.

The Depart­ment of La­bor re­cently re­ported that in Au­gust, U.S. busi­nesses had over 7 mil­lion un­filled po­si­tions. Ac­cord­ing to the Florida Cham­ber of Com­merce, there are about 240,000 open jobs in our state, and fewer than 60,000 peo­ple re­ceiv­ing un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits. These statis­tics high­light a worker short­age cri­sis that over time will neg­a­tively im­pact our state and na­tional economies, our abil­ity to gen­er­ate wealth, and even our na­tional se­cu­rity.

The prob­lem is so se­vere that if you gather 20 CEOs in a room and ask about their big­gest chal­lenge, 18 of the 20 are likely to say it is find­ing good em­ploy­ees.

How did we get to the place where busi­nesses can­not find the em­ploy­ees they need?

The U.S. econ­omy is en­joy­ing a nearly 10-year run of eco­nomic growth that has gen­er­ated many new jobs. Mean­while, re­tir­ing baby boomers are va­cat­ing ex­ist­ing jobs at the rate of 10,000 per day. This com­bi­na­tion of eco­nomic growth and re­tir­ing baby boomers has re­sulted in a very low un­em­ploy­ment rate, with more jobs avail­able than peo­ple qual­i­fied to fill them.

Every in­dus­try in the coun­try is strug­gling to solve this worker short­age, which in time will likely be al­le­vi­ated as tech­nol­ogy al­lows com­pa­nies to fur­ther au­to­mate. How­ever, that tech­no­log­i­cal re­lief is still sev­eral years away. In the mean­time, we have a se­ri­ous prob­lem that needs at­ten­tion.

Many po­ten­tial so­lu­tions are be­ing ban­tered around by both gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try. Most have to do with train­ing which, while help­ful, does not solve the un­der­ly­ing prob­lem of not enough work­ers for eco­nomic growth. One so­lu­tion that is not get­ting enough se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion is im­mi­gra­tion.

Over the past cou­ple hun­dred years, all around the world, we have learned that economies ex­pe­ri­ence tremen­dous growth when work­ers are tran­si­tion­ing from ru­ral to in­dus­trial com­mu­ni­ties or when new work­ers ar­rive through im­mi­gra­tion. The U.S. is a no­table ex­am­ple of both, and his­tor­i­cally, times of sig­nif­i­cant im­mi­gra­tion have driven sub­stan­tial eco­nomic growth.

Im­mi­grants have pro­vided the U.S. fuel that re­sulted in eco­nomic growth en­vied by the world. With­out im­mi­grants, our coun­try would not have had the work­ers or con­sumers to drive the eco­nomic re­sults that we have en­joyed.

Im­mi­gra­tion is an emo­tional topic for a lot of rea­sons. No one wants to lose their job to a new­comer and, of course, no one wants to ad­mit ter­ror­ists or crim­i­nals into our coun­try. How­ever, if we al­low these fears to cap­ture us, and we overly re­strict the net con­trib­u­tors who want to come to the U.S., we run the risk of neg­a­tively im­pact­ing our eco­nomic fu­ture and miss­ing the many ben­e­fits of im­mi­gra­tion.

In ad­di­tion to fu­el­ing the growth of ex­ist­ing busi­nesses, im­mi­grants help the U.S. in other ways:

Ac­cord­ing to the Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion, im­mi­grants are sig­nif­i­cantly more likely to start new busi­nesses than cur­rent cit­i­zens. Fur­ther­more, ac­cord­ing to the Fis­cal Pol­icy In­sti­tute, busi­nesses started by im­mi­grants cre­ate mil­lions of jobs.

Im­mi­grants are of­ten sci­en­tists and engi­neers that help keep U.S. com­pa­nies glob­ally in­no­va­tive, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau.

Im­mi­grants be­come con­sumers for many prod­ucts pro­duced by U.S. com­pa­nies

We clearly want re­spon­si­ble im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies that keep out ter­ror­ists and crim­i­nals.

How­ever, by shift­ing our na­tional par­a­digm to view im­mi­grants not as threats but, as they have his­tor­i­cally been, net con­trib­u­tors to our coun­try, we can solve a se­ri­ous cur­rent prob­lem that will ben­e­fit Florida and po­si­tion the U.S. for many more decades of global eco­nomic lead­er­ship.

JOHN TAGGART / FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

With safe­guards, his­tory shows our econ­omy ben­e­fits when new work­ers ar­rive through im­mi­gra­tion, says Bill Year­gin.

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