Are Immigrants New York City's Secret Weapon?

It is no great secret that many of the nation's cities are in dire straits. Adding to the long list of woes is a glut of empty office buildings. New York City is no exception, but according to Therese E. Byrne and David Shulman, analysts at Salomon Brothers Inc., the turn in New York City's fortunes is within sight.

They forecast that New York's office-vacancy rate could climb from a current 16.9% to nearly 19% by 1993 as the city continues to shed jobs--but then, its economy will revive as the layoffs taper off and the city's traditional wellsprings of strength emerge. And the commercial office market won't be far behind.

Entrepreneurial immigrants will jump-start the local economy, as they have done so many times before, argue Byrne and Shulman. From 1984 to 1989, more than half a million immigrants settled in New York, about two-thirds of them from the Caribbean and Asia. Many of these immigrants are starting small businesses, a good number in the export and import trade. And other immigrants are successfully entering the work force, says Byrne.

Moreover, New York will keep its position as a gateway to the world economy. After all, it is cheaper for global companies to operate in New York than London, Tokyo, or Paris. And many foreign corporations, especially in the financial-services area, still find New York attractive. Indeed, many financial-services companies show little inclination to move their more creative, higher-paid people elsewhere. New York, say Byrne and Shulman, will "retain its title as a global financial capital--despite a current downsizing of the financial-services industry--supported as it is by a vast global and domestic base of business."

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