ST. GEORGE —Labor shortages have emerged as one of the most significant hurdles businesses face today, posing challenges to sustained growth and economic development.

International students and their families take part in the annual homecoming parade at then-Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Utah Tech University, St. George News

This will be one of the major topics at the New Americans in Southern Utah Symposium, which will be Friday, Feb. 23, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Utah Tech University’s Gardner Student Center Ballroom.

Among the areas of focus will be elevating Utah’s thriving economy by bridging and accelerating the talent pipelines of refugees, immigrants and other New Americans, according to a news release.

The symposium hosts include the Utah Center for Immigration & Integration housed in the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, Utah Tech University’s Office of International Programs and the Center for Economic Opportunity & Belonging.

The symposium is a unique platform, bringing together local and national leaders to engage in meaningful discussions on immigration and opportunities for workforce engagement. The event will delve into employment visa pathways as innovative solutions to sustain talent pipelines, ensuring businesses can access the skilled workforce necessary for success.

“The work we have been doing around engagement statewide has offered the opportunity for us to bring together a group of national experts from esteemed organizations to amplify the economic and workforce opportunities immigrants bring and their critical role in a larger business imperative for the state,” said Natalie El-Deiry, director of immigration and integration, in a news release.

The symposium provides regional businesses with a unique opportunity to explore and understand the diverse talent pool that immigrants and refugees bring. As the region experiences growth, U.S.-born and immigrant talent are poised to address the state’s pressing workforce needs, fostering economic opportunities for all residents.

Ze Min Xiao was named director of the Center for Economic Opportunity and Belonging in 2021, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of the Center for Economic Opportunity and Belonging, St. George News

“When all residents, including our newest members, experience a sense of belonging and have access to opportunities, they can contribute their whole selves to the growth and enhance the quality of life of everyone in our state,” Ze Min Xiao, CEO of the Center for Economic Opportunity & Belonging, said in a news release. “Businesses play a vital role in this process.”

The American Immigration Council will highlight the demographic changes in southern Utah, offering valuable insights to underscore the critical role that new Americans play in the region’s economic landscape.

“Immigrants are making significant contributions to Southern Utah as taxpayers, entrepreneurs and workers in high-needs industries ranging from hospitality to manufacturing fields,” Micaela McConnell, senior policy associate of state and local initiatives at the American Immigration Council, said in a news release. “By continuing to invest in opportunities for immigrant residents, Southern Utah can harness their potential and ensure that the region can thrive.”

The symposium invites businesses, community leaders and stakeholders to join the conversation, share insights and explore collaborative strategies to address labor shortages while embracing the diverse contributions of new Americans.

For more information and to register for the symposium, visit New Americans in Southern Utah Symposium. A full agenda is available on the symposium home page.