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Welcome Dayton in Syracuse: Reflecting on the Importance of Place

Syracuse and Detroit Exchange Strategies for a Holistic Approach

Global Detroit’s Pioneering Efforts Honored with National Innovation Award

Global Detroit logo rectangleIn late January, Welcoming Economies Global Network member Global Detroit was honored to receive one of the first-ever Renewal Awards, created by the National Journal and Atlantic magazines with Allstate, to recognize the innovators, grassroots organizers and problem-solvers who are making progress against the greatest challenges facing America.  The awards identify and celebrate the efforts of six nonprofit initiatives across the country that are tackling vital issues, from education to economic opportunity, from health care to neighborhood revitalization.

Allstate chairman CEO Tom Wilson and Steve Tobocman, Global Detroit

Allstate chairman CEO Tom Wilson and Steve Tobocman, Global Detroit

National recognition of Global Detroit and its immigrant economic development efforts in Detroit signals widespread acceptance of immigration as an economic development and community renewal strategy. Global Detroit received this prestigious national award on the 5th anniversary of the beginning of its first programs. In the five years since the Global Detroit study and plan were unveiled in 2010, Global Detroit has worked with its partners across metro Detroit to implement no fewer than eight of the eleven strategies in the original Global Detroit study to help the region’s economic recovery by leveraging international talent to fill regional businesses’ unmet talent needs, catalyzing the growth and development of immigrant entrepreneurs, and building a global region with competitive advantages in job creation, business growth, and community development.

Where these ideas were once met by curious looks, they are now met with interest by peers across the Midwest and Northeast, and encouraged by the support of the Network. The environment to renew America’s economy is being set by Global Detroit and its Network peers. Research into the economic impact of immigrants and refugees is easier to come by, and tangible outcomes of immigrant economic development work are evident across the Welcoming Economies Global Network.

The Renewal Awards celebrate innovators that are renewing America from the ground up despite a na­tion­al sys­tem mired in stale­mate. Immigration reform is no stranger to stalemate, and any type of meaningful reform appears no closer despite immigration’s now constant (and heated) seat on the political stage. Despite the gridlock in Congress, however – or perhaps because of it – local and regional efforts to effectively integrate immigrants and refugees have surged with newfound allies and energy.  Over the last few years, the growth in both number and scope of these programs is astounding, and reveals a strong momentum in the emerging field of immigrant economic development.

This award, an incredible recognition of how far local immigrant economic development efforts have come, honors Global Detroit and motivates its staff, board, supporters, and partners to continue to help revitalize Detroit and the metro region. Our nation still has much work to do to make America the best it can be for all its residents. We hope the Renewal Award is a catalyst for others to work with immigrant communities producing economic opportunity for the entire region by welcoming immigrants and encouraging regional economic development efforts to play a role not just in attracting immigrants, but also in retaining them and in enhancing their role in the community’s economic and social fabric.

Welcoming America’s Guide to Immigrant Economic Development Released

Are you looking to start an initiative to spark growth in your city and local economy by better integrating immigrants and the skills, entrepreneurial spirit, talent, and energy they bring to local economies?

Or maybe you want to enhance an existing immigrant economic development effort?

Welcoming America’s new Guide to Immigrant Economic Development provides guidance for building or growing a regional infrastructure to welcome, support, nurture, and integrate immigrants and refugees in your region in a manner that can both create more meaningful opportunities for immigrants and refugees, and that can provide tangible benefits and opportunities to receiving communities.  This guide showcases the role immigrants play in economic growth, job creation, and prosperity for their community. Chapters contain best practices, strategies, and models that can inform those working in the fields of economic development and immigrant integration.

The Guide responds to the growing demand from communities looking to start or enhance an initiative to spark growth in their city and local economy by better integrating immigrants and the skills, entrepreneurial spirit, talent, and energy they bring to local economies. As more communities in the Rust Belt recognize the value of immigrants to their local economies, this guide can provide a framework to help them develop their own initiatives based on their local needs and infrastructure.

The Guide’s 14 chapters: 

  1. Getting Started
  2. Entrepreneurship
  3. International Student Retention
  4. Workforce Development
  5. Highly-Skilled Worker Initiatives
  6. Connector Programs
  7. Rural Development
  8. Immigrant Investor Visas
  9. Export Promotion
  10. Corporate Diversity and Inclusion
  11. Encouraging Homeownership
  12. Urban Agriculture
  13. Integration Services

Check out the Guide to Immigrant Economic Development by visiting:


Rust Belt Cities Embrace Immigrants as Key to Future

White House Joins Over 300 Rust Belt Leaders to Celebrate Innovations in Immigrant Welcoming, Integration, Urban Revitalization and Economic Development

White House official will keynote the 3rd Annual Welcoming Economies (WE) Global Network Convening. A growing number of Rust Belt cities are embracing immigrants as a means of revitalizing urban neighborhoods and spurring local economic growth, and will be participating in this year’s Dayton Convening. As a more welcoming approach to immigration spreads quickly across the Rust Belt – and pays off for local economies – a new field of practice is picking up steam.

The WE Global Network Convening in Dayton reveals the momentum that the field of immigrant economic development is experiencing. The number of local initiatives participating in this year’s Convening has more than doubled since the initial Convening in Detroit only two years ago. Attracting attention of the White House and national experts, the Convening’s expected attendance demonstrates the WE Global Network’s value and the Rust Belt’s position as a national leader in efforts to attract and retain global talent.

Keynote speaker Felicia Escobar, White House Special Assistant to President Obama for Immigration Policy, who played a key role in the creation and implementation of the first-ever federal immigrant integration policy, will speak about the White House Task Force on New Americans. Ms. Escobar’s attendance demonstrates the White House’s recognition of the WE Global Network and the work of local initiatives across the Rust Belt.

More than 250 attendees from across the country are expected at the Convening, which takes place all day Thursday, July 9th at the Dayton Convention Center. Hosted by Welcoming America, Welcome Dayton, the City of Dayton, City of Dayton Human Relations Council, and Global Detroit, it includes numerous workshops and panels designed to highlight cutting edge policies, successful programs, and innovative ideas in the emerging field of immigrant economic development.

Priority areas for the day’s sessions mirror Welcome Dayton’s five focus areas – including business and economic development, community culture and arts, education, government and justice, and health and social services – that guide Dayton’s immigrant integration work. “We believe we have something for cities and economic development leaders across the Rust Belt at this year’s convening,” said Melissa Bertolo, Welcome Dayton Program Coordinator. “The list of speakers represents the nation’s leaders in this emerging field of immigrant economic development.”

The Welcome Dayton initiative has been credited with reversing population decline, boosting economic competitiveness and vitality, and expanding opportunities for an increasingly diverse community. According to a report released today by the Partnership for a New American Economy, “Welcome to Dayton: How Immigrants are Helping to Grow Dayton’s Economy and Reverse Population Decline,” Dayton has really reaped the benefits of its immigrant economic development efforts. Dayton’s immigrants show exceptionally high rates of entrepreneurship (15.3% are self employed, over twice the average for their native-born counterparts), and possessed more than $115 million in spending power and contributed more than $15 million in state and local taxes annually. The PNAE report underscores why Dayton is the perfect backdrop for hosting the WE Global Network’s 3rd Convening and the growing movement of leaders pursuing immigrant economic development opportunities for their communities.

“Welcoming America is excited to use the WE Global Convening to release the first-ever Guide to Immigrant Economic Development,” said Welcoming America Director David Lubell. Authored by Global Detroit Director Steve Tobocman, the guide “Responds to the growing demand from communities looking to start or enhance an initiative to spark growth in their city and local economy by better integrating immigrants and the skills, entrepreneurial spirit, talent, and energy they bring to local economies,” added Lubell. As more communities in the Rust Belt recognize the value of immigrants to their local economies, this guide, and the Convening, can provide a framework to help them develop their own initiatives based on their local needs and infrastructure.

Rust Belt Immigrants Propel Economy of Region and Country

100 years ago, the Rust Belt was a region of immigrants – a global leader that attracted millions of people from all over the world to contribute to the growth industries of America’s manufacturing base. Immigrants were at the source of much of the Rust Belt’s early 20th Century industrial innovation and propelled much of America’s industrial growth. Their economic contributions helped build the most prosperous middle-class quality of life the world has ever known.

Can you imagine how energized Rust Belt cities would be if their populations reflected anything like the number of newcomers we experienced 100 years ago? See the chart below comparing 1910’s foreign-born populations to 2010’s in our WE Global Network member cities.

The WE Global Network is a collection of 20 Rust Belt economic and community development initiatives focused on revitalizing their cities and regional economy by integrating immigrants. The WE Global Network celebrates Immigrant Heritage Month, a nationwide effort coordinated by Welcome.US to gather and share stories of our shared American heritage, by honoring immigrants’ economic contributions and encouraging a new future in the Rust Belt that welcomes and embraces immigrants, refugees, and internationals.

WE Cities Population then and now smaller

When talking about immigrant business owners, it’s common to think first of your local corner store, family owned-restaurant, and other small businesses we rely on in every day life.  Less often do the well-known logos of the household brands that provided livelihood to our grandparents’ and parents’ generations come to mind, but we now know that many of these companies, too, owe their existence to immigrant innovators.  Entrepreneurial immigrants have created some of the world’s largest companies and millions of jobs for American workers. The Partnership for a New American Economy’s “New American” Fortune 500 report explores the latest research on the business contributions of immigrants. Nationally, more than 40% of 2011’s Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. These companies employ 10 million people worldwide, and have combined annual revenues of $4.2 trillion, an amount greater than the GDP of every country in the world but the U.S., China, and Japan.

To celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month, WE Global Network partnered with the Partnership for a New American Economy to examine the contributions immigrants have made to our 10-state region’s largest companies.

The numbers are astounding. “New Americans” (defined for this purpose as an immigrant or the child of an immigrant) in our WE Global Network 10-state region founded 94 of the Fortune 500 companies (2011 data) – that’s nearly one out of every five of America’s largest companies. Furthermore, a New American founded nearly half (45.6%) of the Fortune 500 companies in our 10-state region.


WE Region New American F500 to totalAnd finally, the 10 WE Global states account for 45% of all the New American Fortune 500 companies.

Across the Rust Belt, economic development initiatives and innovative strategies focused on attracting and empowering immigrant communities have taken root. The WE Global Network was formed to connect these efforts and to honor and embrace the Rust Belt’s legacy as a region of immigrants.

In many ways, the first step to empowerment is recognizing the strength of our heritage. Our immigrant ancestors were a main source of our economic strength in the 20th Century, and new immigrants to the United States have continued this tradition into the 21st.

Immigrant Heritage Month celebrates immigrant contributions from the past and present through stories and events nationwide. We encourage you to read the inspirational immigrant stories on the Welcome.us website and share your story too! You can also promote and participate in events happening near you and share the stories through Welcome.us’ Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.


WE Global Network members are celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month across the Rust Belt. See what these communities are doing to honor immigrants and refugees this month:

  • Buffalo – Mayor Byron Brown recognized June as Immigrant Heritage Month, and World Refugee Day Kicked Off With A Soccer Game At LaSalle Park.
  • Cleveland – Through Global Cleveland’s Welcoming Initiative, old and new friends participated in a walking tour through the Cleveland Cultural Gardens on June 12th. On June 13th, Global Cleveland participated in La Placita Market in Cleveland’s Clark-Fulton neighborhood on the city’s west side – a traditional Hispanic market aimed at promoting the neighborhood’s Hispanic culture and fostering economic development. Global Cleveland held a private viewing for guests of a documentary featuring stories of recent immigrants to the United States. Global Cleveland wraps up their celebration with their monthly international meet-up dinner at Luchita’s Mexican Restaurant to celebrate Cleveland’s diversity – and amazing Mexican food. Check out Global Cleveland’s IHM stories!
  • Columbus – The City of Columbus recognized Immigrant Heritage Month with City Council.
  • Philadelphia – The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians launched a 3-week campaign to share the Welcoming Center’s stories and raise funds to support new arrivals to establish themselves in America.
  • Pittsburgh – All month long, Vibrant Pittsburgh has been sharing stories of immigrants in the Pittsburgh community, and created a series of videos highlighting the diversity in the region.  Vibrant Pittsburgh also funded Pittsburgh’s World Refugee Day, and captured some of the fun! On June 1st, the City of Pittsburgh kicked off Immigrant Heritage Month with a special visit from USCIS Director León Rodríguez and an historic naturalization ceremony in City Council chambers, followed by the announcement of Mayor William Peduto’s Welcoming Pittsburgh Plan. Pittsburgh also launched their Spark! Film Series early this month, expanding their Cinema in the Parks free summer screenings to include six cultural films–previously only one cultural film was shown–in the hopes to spark an engaging community dialogue. Pittsburgh continues the celebration of Immigrant Heritage Month by inviting the public to City Hall to experience the journey of an undocumented immigrant in the Shared Border, Shared Dreams exhibit. Pittsburgh is excited to round out the month with the City’s first-ever Citizenship Day, to support Pittsburgh’s citizenship-eligible residents on their path to naturalization.
  • St. Louis – Anna Crosslin of the International Institute St. Louis was honored Thursday by The White House as a “Champion of Change” – people who are making a difference in the lives of ‪‎refugees in the U.S. and abroad. Anna has served as President and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis for 37 years, and was instrumental in the founding of the St. Louis Mosaic Project, a nationally-recognized multi-sector led immigration attraction initiative and WE core member.

Study Highlights Need for Immigrant Inclusion in Revitalization of Main Streets

This past week, the Fiscal Policy Institute, in conjunction with the America’s Society and Council of the Americas (AS/COA) released groundbreaking new research about the importance and prevalence of America’s immigrants in building and sustaining Main Street commercial retail businesses. While only 13 percent of America, immigrants make up fully 28 percent of the owners of “Main Street businesses,” defined as retail, accommodation and food services, and neighborhood service businesses.

Main Street Business OwnersMore specifically, immigrant entrepreneurs own 58 percent of dry cleaners, 53 percent of grocery stores, 38 percent of restaurants, 32 percent of all clothing stores, 28 percent of department and discount stores, and 25 percent of electronics, radio, television, and computer stores. In short, this research suggests that as planners, government leaders, nonprofits, foundations, and others seek to develop and implement strategies to revitalize Rust Belt and Midwest cities, neighborhoods, and communities, as well as to continue the growth of downtown commercial districts, they had best consider the role that immigrants play, can play, and will play. Anything less is to turn one’s back to a significant source of investment, risk-taking, ingenuity, hard work, and opportunity.

These immigrant-owned Main Street businesses earn $13 billion annually, provide a critical source of first jobs for many in the American workforce, and “play an important role in generating neighborhood-level economic growth by making these areas attractive places to live and work,” according to the report.

On Wednesday, January 14, WE Global Network organizations from Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Philadelphia attended the release of the study in New York City, including a roundtable discussion between the study’s author David Kallick and representatives from the three metros that received more in-depth treatment and analysis—Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, and Philadelphia. The report compares 2000 and 2013 Census data noting that immigrants accounted for 48 percent of overall growth of business ownership in the U.S. during this time and all of the growth in Main Street business in 31 of the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas and an impressive share of the increase in the remaining 19 areas. The number of immigrant Main Street business owners increased even in the seven metro areas (of the nation’s 50 largest) that saw an overall decline in Main Street business owners (such metros include Detroit, Birmingham, Columbus, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Providence, and Pittsburgh).

The study highlights the work of two WE Global Network core organizations—the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) in Minneapolis/St. Paul and the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians in Philadelphia. NDC is recognized for its culturally competent, comprehensive micro-enterprise training, lending, and incubator development work, including its Islamic law compliant, Reba free, loan fund. The Welcoming Center is praised for its work with entrepreneurs and neighborhood revitalization groups, including its work to diffuse racial and ethnic tensions in Philadelphia neighborhoods.

The WE Global Network has worked with the study’s author, David Kallick, who serves as the Director of Immigrant Research Initiative at the Fiscal Policy Institute, since our initial convening launching the Network in Detroit in June 2013. Traditionally, David has been helpful in tempering our descriptions of immigrant entrepreneurialism, critiquing our language about immigrant exceptionalism. Given our dialogue about the numbers, it was somewhat surprising and very encouraging to see such bold conclusions by the report. One should feel very confident in the study’s conclusions by such a rigorous researcher.

In addition to documenting the incredible impact immigrant Main Street businesses have had on American cities and neighborhoods, the report makes some important recommendations for local and state government, including:

  • Establish a climate of welcoming
  • Create a government office to address immigrant integration
  • Provide a culturally competent business training and services
  • Make sure programs are open to all
  • Be attentive to the challenges undocumented immigrants face
  • Take advantage of the valuable services refugee resettlement agencies offer
  • Make financing innovative and community-based
  • Link financing to training and business support
  • Establish some incubators, especially commercial kitchens
  • Improve licensing and inspections for everyone
  • Use place-based development strategies to help Main Street businesses build neighborhoods
  • Expand the reach of chambers of commerce and trade or interest groups
  • Help manage cultural and economic tensions
  • Pay attention to wages for workers

The significance of the study was highlighted in a Wall Street Journal story on it. We look forward to discussing the study’s contents and suggestions at the Third Annual Convening in Dayton. The importance of immigrants to the Main Street businesses of the Rust Belt and Midwest is evident in the winners of our Network’s “A Day in the Life of Immigrant Entrepreneurs” which features several Main Street business owners. In the coming months, we will continue to highlight the implementation of the strategies recommended by the report.