Success of WE Global Network Members in 2015

The mission of the Welcoming Economies Global Network is to facilitate the success of the local organizations and programs that are implementing immigrant economic development initiatives across the 10-state WE Global region. No list could adequately describe our collective success in 2015, but here are some local highlights:

  • The Neighborhood Development Center of Minneapolis/St. Paul and Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians in Philadelphia were both prominently featured as model programs in the groundbreaking research by David Kallick at the Fiscal Policy Institute, in conjunction with the Americas Society/Council on the Americas on immigrant Main Street business ownership and its impact in American cities.
  • Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown opened a Mayor’s Office of New Americans (headed by Jessica Lazarin), while Mayor Duggan in Detroit created two new mayor offices—the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (headed by Fayrouz Saad) and the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs (headed by Julie Egan).
  • In June, Betty Cruz at the Pittsburgh Mayor’s Office spearheaded the launch of a Welcoming Pittsburgh plan to build a more welcoming experience for immigrants and a more livable city for all.
  • Syracuse member Northside Urban Partnership launched an alliance with CenterstateCEO that will enable it to expand its successful workforce development and entrepreneurship work with immigrants and other diverse communities in the Northside neighborhood of Syracuse to other parts of the city.
  • In October, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley announced plans to create an immigrant welcoming center for the Greater Cincinnati region. The City of Cincinnati and the University of Cincinnati have stepped up to provide funding to the project, which will be launched in 2016 by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, a WE Global member. This is a significant milestone in the Chamber’s work to build a more diverse talent base for the regional economy via its Diverse by Design initiative.
  • Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and five other mayors from key WE Global cities (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Chicago, and St. Louis) comprised a full one-third of the 18 mayors signing a letter to President Obama in September praising him for agreeing to accept Syrian refugees.
  • WE Global members at the New Americans Initiative in Columbus and Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians saw new mayors elected in their respective cities, and are poised to continue their great work. Philadelphia’s new Mayor Jim Kenney was a founding board member of the Welcoming Center.
  • In July, Welcome Toledo Lucas County completed a strategic operating plan that provides for joint staffing of their work between Brittany Ford at the Lucas County Board of Commissioners and Sarah Allan at the Toledo LISC office.
  • St. Louis Mosaic was able to hire its second staff person to greatly expand the program’s impact in entrepreneurship, international students and job connections. A study of local companies’ hiring of international talent was released in September. St. Louis Mosaic continues to draw national attention as an innovator in coordinating a regional strategy to attracting, welcoming, and retaining international talent.
  • The Neighborhood Development Center of Minneapolis/St. Paul was honored in 2015 as the Minnesota Community Advantage Lender of the Year, for its micro-lending to immigrant and minority business owners. In 2015, NDC began to expand its unique work in the area of immigrant and minority micro-entrepreneurship through work and partnership with local efforts. Its work is now being replicated or studied for replication in at least three WE Global cities (Detroit, Syracuse, Philadelphia) as part of a recently- launched Build from Within Alliance to speed up and improve implementation of local micro-entrepreneurship in these cities, study its impacts, and aggregate resources across these cities.

Join the WE Global Network

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2015 Was an Amazing Year – 2016 Promises Even More

By Steve Tobocman

The beginning of 2015 was such a flurry of WE Global activity that I am having difficulty understanding how we accomplished so much. As we launch into 2016, I look forward to what I expect to be a year of promise, impact, and growth. But as we enter a year of exciting opportunities, I thought it important to reflect on just how much WE Global accomplished in 2015.

group shotHere’s a few of the highlights:

  • City-to-City Visits – 2015 began with a burst of intense networking and relationship-building as 12 WE Global cities participated in 6 city-to-city visits during January and February to learn about the emerging work across the region.



  • Julio“A Day in the Life of an Immigrant Entrepreneur” Story Contest – Partnering with our friends in ethnic media at New American Media, WE Global hosted an 11-city immigrant entrepreneur story contest and published a storybook in February with all 11 winners, including awarding a $1,000 prize (drawn at random) for Julio Zegarra-Ballon, a Peruvian immigrant in St. Louis who renovated a vacant space to create Zee Bee Market and offer beautifully hand-crafted Fair Trade products from around the world.
  • Launch of WE Global Network – In April the Welcoming Economies Global Network (WE Global) officially launched as a program of Welcoming America.
  • PrintImmigrant Heritage Month – In June, WE Global members worked with to celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month. WE Global partnered with the Partnership for a New American Economy to highlight the historic contributions of immigrant businesses in the WE Global states by analyzing the “New American” Fortune 500 firms—the Fortune 500 firms started by immigrants or their first generation children—in each state.
  • 20150520_105106-2Developing Vacant Property Solutions – In May, WE Global was asked by the Center for Community Progress to convene the first-ever discussion of immigrants and land banks at the National Reclaiming Vacant Property Conference in Detroit. Nine of the nation’s largest land banks joined WE Global and national partners Partnership for a New American Economy and the Legacy Cities project to discuss the opportunities that can result from connecting land banks and vacant properties with immigrants and refugees. This initial conversation served as the impetus for a forthcoming research report exploring these opportunities in greater detail.
  • Plenary 710x375Dayton Convening – Probably the highlight of the year was the third annual WE Global Convening in Dayton in July keynoted by the White House’s Felicia Escobar. Some 300 attendees from 25 Midwest communities attended the gathering which was characterized by the relationships that were built among practitioners. Welcome Dayton did stellar work as our host and the convening coincided with the release of new research by the Partnership for a New American Economy about how Dayton has benefitted from Welcome Dayton and the growth of its immigrant population
  • Guide-to-IED1-231x300Guide to Immigrant Economic Development – In conjunction with the Dayton convening in July, Welcoming America released its Guide to Immigrant Economic Development written by WE Global Co-Chair Steve Tobocman (with tremendous help from Global Detroit staff, as well as Welcoming America’s Susan Downs-Karkos and Rachel Peric). The Guide includes 13 chapters to help local economic development agencies, chambers, mayors, city councils, nonprofit organizations, and advocates develop innovative programming that integrate immigrants and refugees into their local economies to create jobs and growth that impact the entire region.  
  • CEOs for Cities, National Immigrant Integration Conference, and other speaking engagements – Throughout the year, WE Global was invited to present the exciting work going on throughout the Network to a wide variety of audiences, including CEOs for Cities, the National Immigrant Integration Conference, refugee resettlement groups, and even a state health endowment. In 2016 we hope to connect our innovative perspective with more diverse audiences of economic development actors, business leaders, and local officials.

WE Global at the National Immigrant Integration Conference

By Christina Pope

As we wrap up 2015 and return to our work, a highlight of the year comes to mind: the National Immigrant Integration Conference (NIIC). Many Welcoming Economies Global Network (WE Global) members came together for the phenomenal event held in Brooklyn in December. It’s always great to catch up with peers and take away new learnings and connections at the NIIC, but this time I was particularly struck by a sense of momentum for the year ahead and was energized by WE Global’s strong presence on the national stage. From panel sessions to report releases to networking events, WE Global was everywhere and immigrant economic development was a prominent thread throughout the conference.

NIIC Conference 2015

Photo credit: Keiron Bone Dormegnie, Welcoming America

In packed sessions on employer engagement, multi-sector strategic planning efforts, and welcoming community standards, WE Global members contributed their expertise in immigrant economic development. The interest of attendees in those rooms was palpable; as WE Global members shared best practices from across the Rust Belt, audience members furiously scribbled notes and asked questions to see how they could apply new strategies to their own communities.

In partnership with World Education Services and IMPRINT, WE Global hosted a gathering on the Sunday evening before the first full day of the NIIC, following a special session on the costs of “brain waste”—the unemployment and underemployment of college-educated immigrants. The session and cocktail party drew a large and diverse crowd, one that our national partners characterized as “unprecedented” for an event centered on highly-skilled immigrants, let alone on a Sunday night.

Also during the NIIC, the White House Task Force on New Americans shared their one-year progress report to President Obama detailing their accomplishments in 2015. A core element of this interagency effort has always been economic integration of new Americans, and the Task Force made several key strides on this front in 2015 – their one-pager provides a snapshot of their economic integration actions. The report recognized several WE Global members for their innovative programs and approach, including work underway by the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, Michigan Office for New Americans, Upwardly Global, Global Detroit, International Institute of St. Louis, St. Louis Mosaic Project, and the City of Pittsburgh.

As more communities join the White House Task Force’s Building Welcoming Communities Campaign answering the President’s call to engage in local immigrant integration efforts, the BWCC map is getting crowded in the WE Global region. In fact, over a third of the participating local governments are in the WE Global footprint.

Immigrant welcoming and economic development work is strong and growing in our region, as evidenced at NIIC and by the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign. WE Global members continue to develop innovative strategies at the local level that are influencing national policy and initiatives to tap into economic opportunities created by immigrants across the country. I look forward to building on our momentum and seeing all we accomplish together in 2016.