African Immigrants Revive Mill Town

When a Somali population moved into a dying city in Maine, the benefits of the "new injection of energy" they brought with them has been clear ever since--particularly eonomic growth.
January 28, 2009, 7am PST | Judy Chang
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"Commerce isn't all the Somalis are reshaping. Maine has America's highest median age and the lowest percentage of residents under 18. Throughout the 1990s, the state's population of 20- to 30-year-olds fell an average of 3,000 a year. Demographers predict that by 2030, the state will have only two workers for each retiree. 'In many small Maine towns they're looking at having to close schools for lack of schoolchildren,' says State Economist Catherine Reilly. 'It will snowball. Right now we're seeing the difficulty of keeping some schools open; in 10 or 15 years that's going to be the difficulty of businesses finding workers.' The same ominous trend is seen in other states with similarly homogenous demographics and low numbers of foreign-born residents-states like Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia. Reilly adds: 'If you told a demographer just our racial composition, they would be able to guess that we're an old state with a low birthrate.'"

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Published on Saturday, January 17, 2009 in Newsweek
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