UW Studies Immigrant Impact on Teton County Economy

February 1, 2008

Immigrant influence on Teton County's economy will be studied by the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service (UW CES).

The request came from the Teton County Board of County Commissioners and Town of Jackson to the UW CES, said Mary Martin, UW CES educator in Jackson.

The research will study the economic impact of foreign workers in Teton County, said Martin. "The outcomes are a better understanding of how immigrant spending impacts the community, and as a workforce how it contributes, how and where spending occurs, the impact on local businesses, and the associated benefits and costs to government," she said.

Leland Christensen of Alta, who has been a commissioner for three years and who is also vice-chair, said the survey will provide a snapshot of the community. "We will use it for planning and perspective," he said. "It plays into planning, to see where the dollars are going and where the needs are."

He said Jackson over the past 15 years has seen an increase in the number of non-resident work force. Immigrants are coming from Central and South America, New Zealand, Europe and Canada.

"There are costs and benefits associated with it," he said. "We are trying to get a clear understanding of what those are. I think that will help play into the long-term planning in Teton County."

A Jackson town councilor also said Jackson and the county see value in knowing the community more thoroughly to better plan for social services and infrastructure needs. "I also think it will help our community members value one another's contributions and to all get involved in the community and live together," said Councilor Melissa Turley.

Household information may be gleaned this tax season through volunteers who help foreign-born workers file taxes, said Martin.

"Our hope is to start the next couple weeks asking businesses to fill out a survey from their 2007 records," said Martin. "We plan to acquire additional household surveys on those workers who will be in the county in August."

Households will be asked about occupation, months worked, household size and spending patterns, said David 'Tex' Taylor, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the UW College of Agriculture. Businesses will be asked about number of employees, payroll, benefits provided and costs.

The business survey will be mailed to businesses in Teton County, said Taylor, a community development specialist.

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