About WE Network

The rust belt Welcoming Economies Global Network (WE Network), a program of Welcoming America in partnership with Global Detroit, is a regional network of more than twenty initiatives across the Rust Belt tapping into the economic development opportunities created by immigrants. The WE Network strengthens the work, maximizes the impact, and sustains the efforts of these inclusive economic development initiatives.

WE Network participants benefit from peer-to-peer learning, access to technical assistance, and other capacity building resources.

The value of the rust belt WE Network lies in the unique shared experience of the participating regions, characterized by:

  • Declining or slow growth populations with rapidly aging cohorts
  • Local populations with a rate of foreign-born below the national average
  • Economies that were 20th Century industrial economic powerhouses and are no longer growing at the same rate as the nation’s leading areas of growth
  • Foreign-born populations with higher college attainment rate than local native-born populations, as well as the national average for foreign born
  • Foreign-born populations with higher entrepreneurship rates than the local native-born population
  • Proximate to great research universities and institutions, as well as global leading corporations with a historic presence

The vision for creating a Rust Belt network of immigrant welcoming initiatives started to take shape in the fall of 2012 when leaders from several initiatives began crossing paths at convenings across the Midwest. Short conversations amongst peers from the Rust Belt left organizations with a deeper yearning for more opportunities to share insights, experiences, best practices, challenges, and new ideas. Originally called the Global Great Lakes Network, the WE Network was formalized in 2013 and became a program of Welcoming America in 2014.