Refugees weaving into upstate N.Y.'s changing economy

Upstate New York’s cities take in around 90 percent of all refugees coming to the state. Since the 1970s, waves of refugees have helped arrest declining population and injected much-needed energy into their new communities.

As refugees become more established they transform neglected neighborhoods, open new businesses and establish services to provide support for the next wave of arrivals. They also face several unique challenges.

While studies put an overall positive spin on the economic impact of refugee arrivals, that doesn’t tell the complete story. We're taking a look at how these arrivals are weaving their way into the region’s changing economy.

The desire for familiar food, clothing, and other products from home is spurring refugee communities in upstate New York to start their own businesses. In response, a group in Rochester has organized a six-week startup business training course to help the Somali refugee community navigate the process.

“They can actually create their own little local economy where they can exchange, similar to what they had in Somalia,” says David Dey, president and CEO of the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship.

The Innovation Trail is taking a look at how the thousands of refugees coming to upstate New York are weaving their way into the region's economy.

Turnout may be low this night because of first snow, Nicole Watts tells those gathered in her entryway. Even as she tries to explain this, there's a near steady knock on the front door.

Every Tuesday evening, this home at 129 Lilac Street on Syracuse's Northside turns into a community center.

The Innovation Trail is looking at how refugees have weaved their way into upstate New York's changing economy.

On a recent fall day, community health nurse Sarah Miner is welcomed warmly into the home of Somali refugee Abdalla. Miner works with HCR Home Care in Rochester and she’s been visiting Abdalla and his family for a while now.

Upstate New York cities take in around 90 percent of all current refugee resettlements in the state. All this week, The Innovation Trail is taking a look at how that diverse population has weaved its way into the region’s changing economy.

In Buffalo, a handful of students from countries all over the world are sitting in a class at Journey’s End Refugee Services. They are learning how to become janitors for local businesses. The group nods as a student explains an assignment to them.

Since 2004, upstate New York has taken 90 percent of all refugee resettlements in the state. This is the first part of the Innovation Trail reporting series looking at how upstate New York's refugee population is influencing the region's economy.

Utica has long seen itself as a city of immigrants. The arrival of Italians, Germans and Irish drove the city’s population to peak at around 100,000. During the mid 1970s in the wake of major changes to the city's industrial base and dwindling employment opportunities, the population fell by nearly half.