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.

Somali Community in Western New York

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.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

We wrap up our recent week-long look at refugees in upstate New York with an hour-long conversation. You can listen to the program above, recorded during WXXI's 1370 Connection Innovation Friday.

Upstate New York’s cities take in around 90 percent of the 3,500 refugees coming to the state each year.

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.

stevecadman / via Flickr

In fiscal year 2012, New York state took in 3,529 refugees from seven countries, according to the New York state Bureau of Refugees and Immigrant Assistance, part of the roughly 58,000 that came to the United States. Ninety percent of those refugees were resettled in upstate New York.

Here's how their home nations breakdown:

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

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. You can find more from the series here.

Jai Subedi holds court at his Asian grocery store on Syracuse’s Northside. He’s behind the counter ringing customers up and simultaneously fielding phone calls. All the while giving advice to other refugees about how to deal with various agencies. He opened the store earlier this year with the goal of making it more than just a market.

"Let’s make this one as a home," he said. "You don’t have to buy to come to my store. Just come, stay and hang out and talk because a lot of people come here and they just chat, they talk. And I like that."

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

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. You can find more from the series here.

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.

Pages