Service sector

Small Turkish town boosts U.S. service sector as employees and employers

Yağlıdere, a small town of about 15,000 people nestled along a lush valley in northern Turkey, has more natives thousands of miles away than within its borders. Some 30,000 people with their roots in this Black Sea city in the province of Giresun are now part of the population of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, after an almost coincidental influx of migrants to the United States.

Mayor Yaşar Ibaş says about 70% of Yağlıdere natives who arrived in the United States decades ago are now employees. “Most gas stations on Long Island, for example, are owned or operated by Yağlıdere residents,” he proudly states.

Nowadays, the city is flooded with these migrants or their descendants, who spend their summer holidays in this picturesque town, which seems to have changed little since the first wave of migration began in the 1970s.

A wave of migration after World War II took most Turks to Europe, particularly Germany, which accepted “guest workers”, while a limited number of Turks opted for more distant lands. Although the United States is not a main destination for many, the visit of an ancient Greek native to Yağlıdere, then a village, in the 1960s was apparently a game-changer. At his invitation, the first migrant left for the United States in 1968 and encouraged more to settle there, a land of financial opportunity. Over the next few years, dozens more left Yağlıdere for the United States, with the help of “original” migrant Ihsan Ardın, who then started earning money by organizing trips for the migrant workers.

Ibaş told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they estimate the number of people from Yağlıdere in the United States to be around 21,000, excluding those without residence permits. He pointed out that the city’s population swells, up to 50,000 at times, during the summer. “Everyone who grew up in Yağlıdere visits the city at least once a year. Everyone who emigrated to the United States came back and built new homes here. Some have up to five homes and almost all have built a new home for family members they left behind,” the mayor said.

He also said natives of the city were hard-working and “entrepreneurial,” noting that they were active in the paint business in New Jersey and the majority of those in Massachusetts and Connecticut worked or ran businesses. restaurants. For those who stayed in Yağlıdere, the migrants are “an additional source of income” for local businesses during the summer. “From jewelers to supermarkets, every business here is eagerly awaiting their return for the summer holidays,” he said.

Ali Top, 53, is one of the “latecomers” in the United States. He traveled by boat in 2000, settling in New York. Some 22 years later, he now owns a gas station, grocery store and used car dealership. “We are earning well and investing what we have earned in Yağlıdere,” Top said. “We still miss Yağlıdere. I was planning to spend this year’s holidays in Marmaris, Bodrum and Fethiye (popular seaside towns in southwestern Turkey), but decided to stay here. Yağlıdere is heaven on earth and besides, it will be good for my son to get to know our culture, our people and learn how they love and respect each other,” he said.

Fatma Özbay, who moved to the United States in her twenties, married a compatriot from Giresun there. The 44-year-old echoes Top, saying they wanted their children to learn about Turkish culture.

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