People move to Minneapolis and Saint Paul (MSP) from all over the globe. Newcomers enrich our region’s culture, ignite our workforce, and help connect us to the world. They are central to who we are as a diverse, growing community—whether they move from western Wisconsin or halfway across the planet.
Today, we face a workforce gap that challenges the GREATER MSP Partnership’s vision of leading the world in inclusive economic growth by welcoming all, empowering talent, and igniting innovation. That gap inspired the Partnership’s creation of Make It. MSP., including the MSP Hello team’s work to welcome newcomers.
Our team members have learned that while “Minnesota Nice” is a fun t-shirt slogan, it isn’t always the “secret weapon” that makes newcomers feel welcome in MSP. In fact, it’s quite often a phrase newcomer uses to describe their challenges forging deep, meaningful connections to their new neighbors.
To examine who is moving to MSP, why they relocated, and their experiences in the region, the MSP Hello team worked in recent months to assemble the latest edition of Make It. MSP. Insights. This brief report examines migration data, newcomer perceptions, and examples of how partners in Make It. MSP. are responding to these insights.
Building on a study conducted in 2016, Make It. MSP. partners learned more about our region’s newest neighbors. We analyzed quantitative data from the latest 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) and gathered insights from more 560 newcomers through our MSP Hello survey.
We couldn’t fit everything into the report, but intend to use results to spark dialogue and action. We focused on diving deeper into the data that surprised us most—for better or worse. Here’s what we found.
1. Newcomers come from all over the world, but fewer are relocating internationally
As you may have read in a recent Star Tribune article, international in-migration to MSP has declined recently, dropping as much as 38% in recent years. Domestic migration, however, has steadily continued to rise, up roughly 6% in 2017 with more than half coming from other communities within the Midwest.
In total, more than 93,000 people moved to MSP from beyond Minnesota’s borders in 2017. That doesn’t include all those who moved to MSP from other Minnesota communities. All in all, that accounts for more than 3.5% of the region’s total population. It reveals that despite specific trends moving one way or another, the region continues to attract a very large population of newcomers to MSP each year.
2. Economic opportunity tops the list for reasons newcomers move to MSP
An overwhelming 71% of all survey respondents listed career and education opportunities for them or their partners as the main reason for moving to MSP. Jobs and careers also landed at the top of the list for considerations that keep newcomers here or motivate them to leave.
These findings are consistent with nationwide surveys and bode well for regions like MSP that boast strong economies with diverse career options across a number of sectors.
It’s important to note that other factors are also important – many of them related to economic opportunity. For instance, the affordability of a region, including cost drivers like housing and transportation, is something people consider while weighing career and education options. Other factors, like proximity to friends and family and specific quality of life amenities, are also important. But without the potential for career development, those considerations often don’t come into play.
3. A majority of newcomers feel welcome.
But that’s not everyone’s experience
All in all, 60% of newcomers reported that they feel welcome in MSP. Another 18% said they feel unwelcome in the region, which means there is much work to do. And interestingly, a full 22% reported feeling neither welcome nor unwelcome. Perhaps their opinions are still forming.
However, this split different notably when disaggregated by demographic factors. For example, responses differed slightly based on where newcomers moved from. And respondents identifying as people of color were significantly less likely to report feeling welcome in the region. Those findings are consistent with results of other Make It. MSP. surveys, and underscore work like that being led in the BE MSP team of Make It. MSP. and its partner networks.
While professional opportunity may continue to drive whether these newcomers relocate again, unwelcoming experiences may prevent many newcomers from exploring or accessing longer-term career options here in MSP. Conversely, those who feel welcome today are among the region’s greatest advocates.
Newcomers are seeking deeper, more meaningful connections
A whopping 97% of survey respondents said they are seeking stronger connections to people, groups, or communities – versus just 2% who described seeking connections to resources and guides. Information is out there, but personal connections are often lacking.
Their message is loud and clear: Personal interactions are what matter most in the newcomer experience. The ability or inability for newcomers to break into existing social circles is a powerful indicator of how well MSP is performing supporting inclusive welcoming across the region and our own unique communities.
Help people make connections
Inclusively welcoming newcomers to our region means different things to different people. We don’t have all the answers. At our Make It. MSP. Workshop on May 10, partners from organizations like Marnita’s Table and the International Institute of Minnesota joined newcomers and more than 200 community members, organization leaders, and employers to discuss ideas and opportunities – many of which we can put into practice through projects like the 2019 MSP Welcome Week.
The Make It. MSP. Insights report is meant to spark conversations and inspire inclusively welcoming action. In addition to extending an invitation to a neighbor or colleague, one recommendation shared during the event was to think about your MSP networks and consider how you might open them to someone new. Perhaps there is someone in your own network who could be a resource or connection to a newcomer. Helping to make that meaningful connection happen is a great way to inclusively welcome.
This report doesn’t mark the end of a discussion on inclusive welcoming in MSP—it marks the beginning of a new chapter. We encourage you to use it to have conversations in your own organization, take actions, and share your own great ideas.