Diverse by Design travels to Detroit

By Erika Fiola

On Monday, January 26, nine members of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Diverse by Design initiative and Mayor Cranley’ss Immigration Task Force traveled to Detroit to learn about organizations and initiatives focused on attracting and retaining immigrants and international students. The purpose of the visit was for the two cities to learn from each other and deepen the impact of their individual efforts to create robust economic growth in their regions through immigrant inclusion. View the photos.


Steve Tobocman, our host and the guiding force behind Global Detroit, assembled a powerful group of Detroit leaders to share their story. In our brief trip, we had the opportunity to meet four Detroit city council members, representatives from the governor’s office and leaders of many of Detroit’s immigrant communities.

The trip began with a presentation from Jeff Towns, the Executive Director of the Michigan Global Talent Retention Initiative (GTRI). Michigan’s experience will inform planning by the Diverse by Design Immigration Action Team for an International Student Career Forum on March 10 at the University of Cincinnati.

10855064_10152732846324094_4450496596798053574_oMore of the leaders working to make Detroit more immigrant-friendly joined our group for dinner at Al Ameer in Dearborn, an inner ring suburb with a large Arabic population. For University of Cincinnati student Rebecca Lu Zhang, this was her first taste of shawarma, falafel and more.

The next morning started with presentations from Steve Tobocman and Beth Szurpicki of Global Detroit that focused on their immigrant-friendly opportunity neighborhoods and their cultural ambassadors program. The group also heard presentations from Mary Lane of Welcome Mat Detroit, Christine Sauve of Welcoming Michigan and Annie Fenton of Upwardly Global. There was also a rewarding conversation about program evaluation and effective ways we can measure success.

10842270_10152732847674094_8214302618597826301_oThe morning concluded with a tour of some of Detroit’s ethnic neighborhoods, including Banglatown and Mexicantown and finished with a stop for lunch at El Nacimiento.

While quick, all participants agreed that it was a very worthwhile trip that stimulated lots of new ideas on how we can better welcome and engage immigrants here in Cincinnati. Our thanks to the Knight Foundation and the JM Kaplan Fund for providing the funding for the trip through the WE Global Network.


This post originally appeared on Agenda 360’s blog.

Detroit Welcomes Cincinnati for Welcoming Economies City to City visit

By Global Detroit

On Monday, January 25th, a team of 9 community leaders from Cincinnati from diverse fields visited Detroit as part of the WE Global Network’s city-to-city visit program. The purpose of the WE Global Network’s city-to-city visits is to enable local immigrant economic development organizations in the Rust Belt to learn from each other’s work, and also deepen relationships with other cities in the Midwest who are doing similar work in economic development, neighborhood revitalization, and immigrant integration. The Detroit-Cincinnati visit was on of five other similar visits facilitated by the WE Global Network under grants from the Knight Foundation and JM Kaplan Fund.


Jeff Townes shares GTRI’s strategies for international student retention

The visit was over two days and began with introductions and a session designed to get to know each other better, and also address Cincinnati representatives’ most pressing interest: the retention of international students. Team Cincinnati met and heard from Global Talent Retention Initiative (GTRI) Director, Jeff Townes. Jeff outlined GTRI’s strategies for developing university and corporate partners, and for showcasing students and the 76 GOemployers that are interested in hiring international students through conferences that focus on connecting students and employers.

A 2013 GTRI and Global Detroit report notes that “58% of international students approved for Optional Practical Training (OPT) [work opportunities post-graduation allowed for most international students studying in the U.S.] through our original 7 GOuniversities stayed in Michigan after graduation (compared to 63% of the domestic population native to Michigan and 22% of the domestic students from out of state).” A recent GTRI grant report notes that the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Eastern Michigan University have doubled the number of international students utilizing the OPT work option after graduation from 1,066 in 2011 to 2,209 in 2014.


Bus tour through Detroit

Other sessions during the city-to-city visits included a series of presentations by Global Detroit’s partner initiatives to outline immigrant welcoming, integration, and economic development work in Metro Detroit, as well as a tour the immigrant dense neighborhoods of Hamtramck/Detroit (BanglaTown) and Southwest Detroit. A highlight of the visit was a dinner for over 25 people, including four Detroit City Council members and/or their staffs (Council members Spivey, Castaneda-Lopez, Leland, and Benson participated in the dinner or other events).

Alameer B

Althea Barnett, Daniel Rajaiah, Steve Tobocman, Karen Phillippi

On the visit were Mary Stagaman and Erika Fiola, Agenda 360, Althea Barnett from the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, Sally Duffy, Sister of Charity Ministry Foundation, Daniel Rajaiah of the Mayor’s Office (and the Mayor and City Council Immigration Task Force), Rebecca Zu, City of Cincinnati, Bryan Wright, Cincinnati Community College, and Shau Zavon, Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.  The organizations are in varying degrees of development on immigrant integration.

We hope to develop long lasting relationships with regular check-ins to continue to report our growth and learning on ground, and also, to learn from the development of our partner organizations.


Indianapolis visits Welcome Dayton

The Immigrant Welcome Center of Indianapolis came to Dayton on January 30 for a city to city visit with Welcome Dayton. Melissa Bertolo, Welcome Dayton Program Coordinator, invited the IWC to Dayton because Welcome Dayton has a sub-committee focused on creating a welcome center. In order to ensure a mutually beneficial visit, Melissa arranged additional meetings for the visitors.

After a welcome by Catherine Crosby, Executive Director of the Human Relations Council, the visitors from Indianapolis met with Stephanie Precht, Director of Public Policy and Economic Development at the Dayton Chamber of Commerce. Stephanie is also chair of the Welcome Dayton Business and Economic Development sub-Committee. Stephanie discussed the Chamber’s interest in Welcome Day and highlighted work being done including career discernment services for skilled immigrants, small business resource fairs, and international student retention research.

After discussing the economic development work being done by the Dayton Chamber, the group visited East End Community Services. East End is a wrap-around social service agency located in the Twin Towers neighborhood, which has experienced rapid demographic changes with a growing Latino community. Jan Lepore-Jentleson, Executive Director of East End and chair of the Welcome Center sub-Committee welcomed guests. Representatives from Dayton Public Schools, Premier Health, the Dayton Police Department, and Hispanic Catholic Ministries were all excited about the information shared and felt inspired to continue to think about how the Indianapolis model might be implemented in Dayton.

With no time for a break, Melissa, Tom, and the visitors from Indianapolis went to their next meeting with Officer Dan Mamula. Officer Mamula discussed the work he and other officers are doing including mentoring young immigrants, orientation with recently arrived refugees, and trainings for new recruits. Indianapolis was particularly interested in discussing how to build trust within immigrant communities and Officer Mamula explained the importance of being able to build relationships and be present at community events. Officer Mamula discussed the importance of having the support from the top in the work he does. He explained that he is able to attend all of the community events because the Chief and Command Staff encourage officers to be engaged and allow them to do so as a part of their work.

The meetings ended with conversation around language access, which both cities acknowledged as a challenge throughout their communities. Melissa shared Dayton’s newly adopted language access policy and the trainings taking place with it.

Finally, with a day filled with inspiring conversation and interesting ideas, Melissa took the Indianapolis visitors on a short tour of some areas being revitalized in Dayton. The tour included Neal Avenue where they saw several community gardens tended by a group of African refugees, through Old North Dayton where the history of the past and present have created a multi-ethnic neighborhood, and back to Twin Towers to understand how the presence of East End Community Services has been essential in the community’s growth.

Before heading back to Indianapolis, a quick dinner was had at a local NY Pizzeria owned by an Ahiska Turkish family. After all, nothing demonstrates America quite like a pizza shop owned by new immigrants.

What We Learned in Minnesota: Vertically Integrated Entrepreneurship

The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians visits the Neighborhood Development Center of Minneapolis 

Natalie Herman

The Welcoming Center was delighted to send ourr small business team to Minneapolis to visit the Neighborhood Development Center last month. Natalie Cramer and Herman Nyamunga (pictured at right) spent two days with colleagues at the NDC, learning about their work and sharing lessons from our own practice here in Philadelphia.

A Mature Model: How NDC’s Vertically Integrated Services Help Build Neighborhood Economies from Within

Perhaps the most powerful part of our Minneapolis visit was witnessing the step-by-step progression that connects each of the Neighborhood Development Center’s services.  This “vertical integration” allows entrepreneurs to get the help they need at each stage of business growth.

A few of the services included in NDC’s model:

  • Business Training via an in-depth 11-week curriculum. Participants must complete an application and pass an interview to gain admittance.Training is offered both by NDC itself and through partner organizations in various neighborhoods.
  • The Business Lab, which provides technical assistance in areas such as rebranding, storefront improvement, and other business support.
  • Financing through NDC’s own community development financial institution. Loan amounts range from the micro-enterprise level up to $250,000 for eligible applicants.
  • Real estate Most of NDC’s seven properties are multi-use incubators. Their largest project, the Midtown Global Market, is a transformative endeavor which entailed redeveloping part of a large abandoned property with a food incubator modeled after Philadelphia’s own Reading Terminal Market. The market hosts entrepreneurs from all over the world (and from the local community) selling unique and delicious products.

group shotOverall, we were inspired and energized by NDC’s deep, sustained community commitment. Their ability to train, lend, provide incubator space and low-cost technical assistance creates a supportive and all-encompassing approach to community based economic development.

Perhaps most importantly, NDC has been able to grow and adapt to the needs of their clients while maintaining their mission of working in and for their community.


Sharing Lessons from Philadelphia: Bolstering Micro-Import & Export

How do you amplify the ability of neighborhood businesses to import and export products from abroad? Our staff provided a workshop for NDC and its partners that outlined the Welcoming Center’s process. A few highlights are below.
Immpreneur1. Gather information. We interviewed 30 immigrant entrepreneurs who were importing and exporting; identified and cataloged the products they were handling; interviewed logistics providers (such as freight consolidators); and mapped the supply chain.
2. Identify issues. Among the challenges we identified were:
  • Poor product labeling (leading to some merchants losing their products due to confiscation by inspectors)
  • Inadequate capacity to manage bulk importing/exporting
  • Lack of financing
  • Misinterpretation of regulations due to language barriers
  • Lack of sales/marketing capacity
Meeting3.  Implement solutions. We have addressed these challenges using six different approaches. Two are described below.
  • Collaborating
    with local lenders, the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia, the Export/Import Bank of the United States, and others who have relevant expertise to share with local entrepreneurs
  • Providing technical assistance workshops and consultations on topics such as choosing a freight agent or consolidator; maritime insurance; sales and marketing; and financing.