The ReSET - Baltimore’s Future is Tied to Immigration


Newt Fowler

Baltimore City’s population continues to shrink, another 1.2% by latest measure. Baltimore County may be facing a similar fate, with no growth this past year. And while it’s tempting to lay the blame at crime, education and other challenges facing both jurisdictions, according to a recent Brookings Institution study on how demographics are shifting nationally, there are patterns playing out as people leave urban centers for exurbs and small towns. It’s a trend cities have little control over, save one factor highlighted by the Brookings study – their approach to immigration.

After a decade of growth experienced by cities (which Baltimore missed out on), according to the Brookings’ report, “Americans are spreading out again into suburbs, exurbs, and smaller towns and rural areas.” “Because these trends largely reflect shifts in domestic migration within the United States, immigration from abroad is increasingly counteracting population decline for areas experiencing out-migration.” Simply put, for those cities which do not want to face a contracting tax base and the increasing pressure that places on delivering services, immigration matters more than ever. Immigration is becoming an economic development imperative for many cities.

The Baltimore Sun laid out the most recent U.S. Census results for the region and state, not only underscoring the population loss for Baltimore City and stagnation for Baltimore County, but the growth that other Maryland counties are experiencing as domestic migration patterns quickly shift. But the Brookings study focuses in on the evolving patterns underlying immigration. “Immigration trends change more gradually, because immigrants tend to move to where there are existing immigrant communities of the same nationality, and respond to more long-term economic circumstances.”

What the Brookings study underscores is that when a community approaches immigration intentionally, creating a welcoming environment, focusing on growing immigrant communities already present, and ensuring that barriers to integration and success are lowered, it resets demographic trends. Immigration becomes a countervailing and stabilizing factor against domestic migration to suburbs and exurbs playing out.

Such an immigration policy should not be at the detriment of continuing to address the challenges faced by Baltimore’s disadvantaged residents. We should do everything we can to help all communities succeed, but what is sobering about these recent national demographic trends is the reality that without focusing on growing immigrant communities, we may not have done enough to return our city and region to a healthy future. No matter how successful other efforts are at inclusion, population loss will likely continue. The demographic challenges faced by cities such as Baltimore only underscores the need for a comprehensive, well designed immigration policy.

With more than 30 years’ experience in law and business, Newt Fowler, a partner in Womble Bond Dickinson’s business practice, advises many investors, entrepreneurs and technology companies, guiding them through all aspects of business planning, financing transactions, technology commercialization and M&A. He’s the pastboard chair of TEDCO. Newt can be reached at

Recent Deals

Interested in advertising your deals? Contact Edwin Warfield.

Connect with these Baltimore Professionals on LinkedIn

  • Edwin Warfield

    Editor in Chief, Warfield Digital

  • Jean Halle

    Independent Consultant

  • Larry Lichtenauer

    President of Lawrence Howard & Associates

  • Newt Fowler

    Partner at Womble Carlyle, LLP

  • David Crowley

    Owner at Develop DC

  • Carolyn Stinson

    Stinson Marketing Group