National Welcoming America Week runs through Sunday, and the Bi-State Development Agency is introducing new multi-language posters on its MetroBus vehicles and MetroLink trains designed to welcome St. Louis’ foreign-born population to our region’s transit system. Featuring the word “hello” in 17 different languages and providing a number that individuals can call for help using transit, the posters are being installed on all MetroBus vehicles and MetroLink trains throughout the Metro transit system.
The posters are one part of a larger region-wide effort aimed at attracting a greater immigrant population to St. Louis. Known as the St. Louis Mosaic Project, the initiative was created after a 2012 study by Jack Strauss, Ph.D., Director of the Simon Center for Regional Forecasting at St. Louis University, revealed that the St. Louis region has a low representation of immigrants compared to similarly-sized metropolitan areas in the United States. Noting the positive impact the existing immigrant population has had on the region related to their entrepreneurial spirit and the talented workforce they provide, the St. Louis Mosaic Project is designed to attract, support and retain new residents to spur growth and secure the economic future of St. Louis with the ultimate goal of making the region the fastest growing U.S. metropolitan area for immigration by 2020.
“The St. Louis region enjoys a long and proud history of immigrants who built businesses and strengthened our community, and our region’s future now depends on how well we welcome the next generation of immigrants and innovators. Together, we will make St. Louis a more attractive place for people to live, work and invest,” said St. Louis Regional Chamber President & CEO Joe Reagan, a member of the Mosaic Project’s steering committee.
With so many of our area’s foreign born residents currently using MetroLink and MetroBus services and future immigrants poised to do the same, Bi-State Development Agency (Metro) President and CEO John Nations also has been an active member of the steering committee, and he believes the poster initiative is a great way to show those riders that they are welcomed and valued customers.
”Knowing that transit use has been a way of life for so many immigrants, we want the members of our foreign born population to know we are pleased to have them onboard our Metro transit vehicles, we recognize what an important piece of our customer base and our region’s economy they represent, and that we are committed to providing them with the best service possible,” said Nations. “We’ve long known that successful transit systems drive economic development, and providing reliable access to this important constituent group is one more way that we accomplish that.”
Anna Crosslin, president & CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis, which assisted with the language translations for the poster, noted that transit is especially important to refugees as they settle into life in the Bi-State region. “In their early years after arrival, refugees rely heavily on buses for transportation needs, including trips to work, to the grocery store, and even to school. Refugees are among Metro’s most loyal customers, and now they will feel more welcome among Metro’s ridership.”
For Betsy Cohen, project director for the St. Louis Mosaic Project, the posters will do more than put a smile on the faces of the foreign born who see them. “This initiative by Metro will play a key role in not only making foreign born individuals feel welcome on our buses and trains, but also in our communities, and that’s something that will help us to attract and retain the entrepreneurial, innovative people that will help our region to grow,“ Cohen said.
In its quest to make St. Louis the fastest growing U.S. metropolitan area by 2020, the St. Louis Mosaic Project is also working to engage local and federal government leaders to reduce barriers for foreign workers and their families; attract and support international students for earlier and deeper integration into the St. Louis community; connect services to give immigrants access to information and dispel myths about immigration and reinforce a community culture of inclusion and welcoming.