Menckens Ghost

More About: Immigration

The rest of the story about immigrants revitalizing cities

Dear Thinker:

The following Bloomberg article is about a neighborhood in St. Louis
that is a couple of miles from my boyhood home, a neighborhood that is
being revitalized by Bosnian immigrants. A former German neighborhood,
I used to ride my bike there as a kid (without wearing a helmet, which
explains my mental condition), and on special occasions my family would
eat at Bevo Mill, which was a restaurant and landmark resembling a large
Dutch mill and owned by the Busch beer barons.

As with many stories in the media, the story is accurate in what it says
but misleading in what it doesn't say.

It's true that Bosnians have revitalized the neighborhood (just as gays
and Asians have revitalized other St. Louis neighborhoods). But the
implication is that all immigration is good, and that poor, poorly
educated, and illegal immigrants from Latin America have the same
behaviors, culture and assimilation as Bosnian immigrants. Or that
Muslims from the former Yugoslavia are identical in mind-set and mores
as Muslims from Yemen, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Also, the article makes St. Louis sound like a depressed area, because
it focuses on the decline of the city proper, which represents only
about 13% of the population of the metro area--an area that has a very
diverse economy with a lot of manufacturing and headquarters of large
corporations, as well as a relatively low cost of living. The city
began being hollowed out after World War II, due to the interstate
highway system making it easy to do so and to whites fleeing bad
schools, encroaching slums, and the corrupt Democrat machine that ran
the city. This explains why the suburbs are predominately Republican.

The article is also silent about how the Bosnian immigrants have been
terrorized by blacks from nearby black neighborhoods. For example, at
around the same time as the infamous Ferguson incident, a couple of
young black thugs killed a Bosnian with hammers--a story that went
largely unreported in the national media.

As Paul Harvey used to say, "And that's the rest of the story."

Mencken's Ghost

Trump May Not Want Immigrants, but Rust Belt Mayors Do

by Michelle Jamrisko and Eric Englert

Bloomberg, March 17, 2017, 2:00 AM MST

In 1997, refugee Alem Boric and a partner started Europa Market, 600
square feet of Bosnia in St. Louis.

Today, what began as a corner store in the city's Bevo Mill neighborhood
is a 96,000-square-foot (8,900-square-meter) juggernaut that distributes
smoked meats, cheeses, cakes and Croatian jams from the former
Yugoslavia, Germany, Italy and Greece to 28 U.S. states. The company,
now up to 45 employees, has seen its revenue double annually for the
past several years.

In the suburbs and countryside of Rust Belt swing states, President
Donald Trump's anti-immigrant message may have carried the day, but in
St. Louis and the rest of the region's dilapidated, post-industrial
cities, it's anathema. Immigrants represent rebirth: They've stabilized
neighborhoods, cushioned city coffers and, in the process, supported
credit ratings and bond sales. Mayors from Detroit to Cleveland -- as
well as northeastern cities like Albany, New York, and Lowell,
Massachusetts -- see financial salvation in these newest Americans and
are dismayed by Trump's drive to tighten the borders.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay raves about the booming Bosnian immigrant
community in his city.

"We were losing population and people more than almost any city in
America before the Bosnians came," said Slay, a Democrat. "They've
helped us revitalize this city."

Much of the Rust Belt's pain comes from the excruciating transition it's
making to a service-sector economy from one predicated on manufacturing.
In its cities, the share of the nation's employment dropped to 27
percent in 2000 from 43 percent in 1950, according to one study
<>. Sustaining population has been a
struggle: More than half of 23 municipalities, including Detroit,
Syracuse, and Toledo, saw losses from 2000 to 2014, according to census

Haven Found

Many Bosnians in St. Louis fled Yugoslavia's brutal civil war in the
1990s and are largely Muslim. That carries particular resonance as the
Trump administration tries to block refugees in the name of stopping
Islamist terrorism during a conflict that's forced almost 5 million
people from Syria.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has decried Trump's measures, pointing to
a tradition of providing "safe haven, freedom and opportunity." Leaders
of cities including Los Angeles, Dallas, Seattle, Louisville, Phoenix
and Boston spoke out separately, many saying immigrants were key to

"Cities see immigrants and refugees filing into the labor market where
native-born Americans aren't," said Christina Pope, a regional manager
at Welcoming America, a Decatur, Georgia, nonprofit that boosts
immigrant entrepreneurship and economic integration.

Voters who propelled Trump to the White House acted in the face of such
judgments by people they saw as "global elites," said John Mauldin,
Dallas-based president of Millennium Wave Advisors, an investment
advisory firm.

"The data -- you can make it say almost anything that you want it to
say," said Mauldin, who says the U.S. has admitted too many refugees
without valuable skills. "It really boils down to people's impressions,
what do they feel, their political bias."

Suburbs are Trump country: While St. Louis went
<> 79 percent for Hillary
Clinton, the encircling towns voted for Trump at shares exceeding 60 and
70 percent.

"I am in total support of Trump. I don't want St. Louis to be a
sanctuary city," said Rene Artman, a Republican activist from suburban
Fenton. "My mother-in-law was an immigrant. She came in the right way.
We are a country of immigrants. Come in the right way and everyone is

St. Louis can use whomever it can get.

Withering City

The population withered
about 316,000 from 347,000 in 2000. U.S.-born residents decreased by
about 10 percent while the smaller crop of foreign-born rose by a
similar magnitude.

"Population growth is very important for healthy communities and
economies -- usually it's a telltale sign," said Dan Heckman, a Kansas
City-based fixed-income strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

The overall decline contributed to a bleaker outlook for the city's
debt, according to Heckman. A St. Louis bond that matures in 2033 traded
March 15 for an average yield of 3.6 percent, about 1.2 percentage
points more than top-rated debt, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

So St. Louis is doubling down on its welcome. The city needs
personal-care aides, food workers and customer-service representatives,
according to a St. Louis Community College report
year. Immigrants make an outsize impact in those roles.

Refugees are helped by the International Institute of St. Louis, which
provides short-term help with employment and housing. From 1979 through
2016, the group sponsored about 23,000 refugees, about 30 percent
Bosnians, said Chief Executive Officer Anna Crosslin.

Immigrant spending power in the metropolitan area amounted to about $3
billion in 2014, when they contributed about $1.1 billion in taxes to
local coffers, according to New American Economy
<>, co-founded by former
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (Bloomberg is founder and majority
owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.) The newcomers are about 29
percent more likely to be entrepreneurs than native-born St. Louisans,
the data show.

Meet the Residents

Ibrahim Vajzovic, a former civil engineer, landed in Bevo Mill in 1994
and took an entry-level job. He said Bosnians "cleaned up the area,"
named for a windmill-shaped restaurant and populated by successive waves
of immigrants. Now, he runs a multifaceted business providing real
estate, travel and insurance services, but spends most of his time
teaching business courses for Fontbonne University.

Sadik Kukic arrived in 1993 with about $58 and no English. Two decades
later, he's the owner of Taft Street Restaurant and Bar and president of
the Bosnian Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber was a leading voice in establishing a community improvement
district in Bevo Mill. Aspecial assessment
building owners and a fresh 1 percent sales tax for residents will fund
the project, which will raise about $750,000 by 2021. More than a third
will go toward public safety, with another 20 percent for infrastructure.

Sadik Kukic

Photographer: Eric Englert/Bloomberg

Residents are enjoying brighter housing prospects even as the city
overall has been slow to recover since the housing crisis. Among 84 zip
codes with at least 100 sales in the metro area, several in and around
Bevo Mill were among the top 15 for greatest price appreciation over the
past five years, according to Daren Blomquist, vice president at ATTOM
Data Solutions in Irvine, California. The old Bevo Mill is slated to
become a biergarten.

Boric said the city helped him and Europa Market thrive, as did previous
immigrants and their descendants.

"A lot of the folks in the neighborhood, those Germans, appreciated us,
as they saw themselves in us," he said. "Bosnians were well-received.
The city and the mayor appreciated us."


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