Economic Impact

Economic ImpactThe resettlement of more than 15,000 individuals into the City of Utica by the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR) helped to reduce more than a half century of population decline. Several studies have highlighted the impact that MVRCR has had on the City of Utica. The community has also attracted new immigrant populations, such as Dominicans and Puerto Ricans. A City of Migration benefits from the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants, who are 30% more likely to start new businesses. Click here to download “LIRS Immigration Myths Busted”

The City has been visited by reporters and guests from France, Germany, Australia, and Japan. Domestically we have been invited to conferences in Cleveland to discuss our work and have been studied by larger cities such as Syracuse. All these groups have been interested in our models and our examples of how we have made diversity work, encouraged a sense of welcome, and built community with many cultures.

This page highlights stories, studies, and projects that have demonstrated the impact of refugee resettlement and immigration on the City of Utica. Many of the studies can be downloaded here or viewed by following the hyperlinks.

“The immigrants have been an economic engine for the city, starting small businesses, buying and renovating down-at-the-heels houses and injecting a sense of vitality to forlorn city streets. “We’re like every other upstate city,” said Anthony J. Picente Jr., the executive of Oneida County, which includes Utica. “Our infrastructure is old. Our housing stock is old. But the refugees have renovated and revitalized whole neighborhoods.”

"How Refugee Resettlement Became a Revival Strategy for this Struggling Town"

PBS News Hour, April 7, 2016 at 6:35 PM EDT "...the once-downtrodden town of Utica in upstate New York has been more welcoming; one out of every four citizens there is a refugee. But Utica’s commitment to resettlement isn’t purely humanitarian -- its open door policy is also a pioneering economic tool for revitalizing the Rust Belt. Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports."

“Six Continents, One Hometown: Public Opinion on Refugee Resettlement In Utica”

This 2013 study was commissioned by the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees with financial support from the Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, Inc., and in partnership with Zogby Analytics.

  • The study found that 69% of Utica area residents viewed immigration as good for the area.
  • The study also highlighted the importance of having a sophisticated network of helping agencies, and specifically the importance of having a one-stop shop like the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees. 

The Fiscal Impact of Refugee Resettlement In the Mohawk Valley Paul Hagstrom, Hamilton College

This 2000 study was the first to highlight the economic impact that Refugee Resettlement had on the City of Utica.

  • The study found, “The primary fiscal benefits accruing from refugees stems from their participation in labor markets (and therefore consumption of local goods) and real estate markets. Direct benefits are derived from sales and property taxes, while indirect benefits accrue through positive effects on local real estate markets.”
  • This study highlighted the net positive benefits of refugee resettlement.

Several years after the study, in a 2007 Reader Digest story, “Second Chance City – A wave of refugees is bringing new life to a dying American Town”, Professor Hagstrom was quoted as saying,

 “Utica is still a long way from its former prominence as one of New York's most prosperous cities…but housing values increased 52 percent between 2001 and 2006.

2013 Policy Summit on Housing, Human Capital and Inequality

In September of 2013 the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees was invited as a presenter at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s Policy Summit on Housing, Human Capital, and Inequality. The organization was asked to speak on a panel discussion entitled, “Nontraditional Tools in the Neighborhood Stabilization Toolbox, specifically addressing the economic impact of refugees. A key takeaway from MVRCR’s presentation was that without the support of the local community the Refugee Center would not be able to do the work that we do. We emphasized our adeptness at building partnerships and stressed the importance of encouraging their creation and maintenance. Click here to download the presentation.

The Town that Loves Refugees

The 2005 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Magazine, volume 1, Number 138 was completely devoted to the impact of Refugees on the City of Utica. The magazine was distributed international and resulted in Utica becoming known as the “Town that Loves Refugees”. 

Additional Studies

The World at Our Doorstep: Embracing Refugee Resettlement

This 2012 Study by the Onondaga Citizen’s League looked at the refugee experience in Onondaga County and developed recommendations for a more welcoming community. Onondaga County is home to the City of Syracuse where two refugee resettlement programs are located. The study recommended Syracuse develop a site similar the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for refugees, where a variety of services are provided in one central location.  In 2012 then Executive Director, Peter Vogelaar presented provided a presentation to the group to help inform the study.

Exploring Refugee Integration: Experiences in Four American Communities

This June 2010 ISED Solutions report highlighted the integration work of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees. In 2008 ISED Solutions staff visited Utica over the course of several days to meet with community leaders and convene focus groups to learn of the best practices for community integration.

Utica, NY: City with a Warm Heart

State of the RE:UNION, a public radio program, produced this entire piece on Utica, NY exploring the revitalization of an “older” city and the impact of the refugees. 

Projects Fostering Entrepreneurial Spirit


Re.Source Traditional Artisans is a micro-enterprise group of diverse artisans from many different refugee and immigrant communities, representing several different cultures. The project was setup to allow for these creative and talented artists to pursue and continue with their traditional art forms and handicrafts within the United States, and also earn supplemental income for their work.

There is a component of business training and financial literacy available to participants of the project. Currently we are made up of artisans representing from the Somali-Bantu community, Iraq, Chad, Bosnia, Ghana, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, Palestine, Belarus, Yemen and the Dominican Republic. Our micro-enterprise endeavors include fabric and textile arts, home goods, jewelry making, painting, woodcarving, and baking. Visit the Projects page for more information.

Community Gardens

In 2013 the New York State Department of Health received an ATSDR Brownfield Opportunity grant to support local agencies in creating community gardens. The Oneida County Health Department partnered with the Refugee Center to build and farm several raised bed gardens. In 2014 MVRCR received Workforce Development Institute funding for a ten-week class to teach refugees how to adapt their agricultural skills to our climate. For 2014 the project was able to use sites outside of Utica to create larger gardens for our refugees’ families. A long term goal is to launch a business venture. For more information about Community Gardens visit the Community Programs page under Services. 

Office for New Americans

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo established the Office of New Americans (ONA) to assist new-comers to New York State who are eager to contribute to our economy and become part of the family of New York State. ONA helps New Americans fully participate in New York State civic and economic life. We are committed to strengthening New York State’s welcoming environment for New Americans. The ONA at the Refugee Center offers quarterly information sessions on how to start and run a small business. Additionally they can provide one consultation. Visit the ONA page for more information.

If there are resources not listed here that you believe should be highlighted please contact an administrator via the Contact page, e-mailing or calling (315) 738.1083