Why the 2016 Convening Matters to Chambers and Economic Development Agencies

This year’s WE Global Network Convening in Philadelphia on October 19-20 should be particularly attractive to local chambers of commerce and economic development practitioners. The movement to include immigrants, immigrant talent, and immigrant entrepreneurs in local economic development planning and strategies is rapidly expanding. And this year’s WE Global Convening is the only conference to deeply focus on immigrants and economic development in America.

Within the past couple of years, several local chambers of commerce, including the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and the Greater Des Moines Partnership, have spearheaded local talent initiatives that specifically focus on better integrating immigrants into the regional economic development strategy.

In addition to the rapid growth within local chambers of commerce, local economic development agencies have been at the core of similar efforts. WE Global Network members at the St. Louis Mosaic Project and Syracuse’s Centerstate CEO are part of their regional economic development agencies.

Chambers and economic development agencies across the country are recognizing the contributions immigrant communities are making to their local economies. Studies of immigrant integration work have come out in recent years that show the many ways immigrants are contributing, including:

  • 28% of “Main Street” business owners are immigrants, and immigrants comprised almost all new “Main Street” business growth from 2000-2013.
  • Nationally, more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
  • Immigrants start businesses at twice the rate of U.S.-born residents nationally.
  • From 1995-2005, immigrants launched 25% of all high-tech firms in America. Updates of this research suggest that these rates largely persist.
  • Every foreign STEM worker with an advanced U.S. degree creates an estimated 2.62 additional American jobs..
  • The median age of the U.S. workforce is climbing, and immigrants are more likely to be working age.

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC), who will be helping to lead our session on Integrating Immigrant Economic Development Strategies into Your Region’s Economic Development Mainstream, has been tracking this topic since it issued a 2013 report on “The Economic Development Impacts of Immigration” that chronicled early immigrant economic development efforts of local economic development agencies.

Specifically, the WE Global Convening includes a robust agenda of topics critical to immigrant economic development practitioners, including:

  • Sessions focused on highly-skilled immigrant talent
    • Best Practices in Skilled Immigrant Career Pathways & Ladders
    • Power Ties: Missing Links in International Student Retention
  •  Sessions focused on broader workforce development opportunities
    • The Immigrant Workforce and the Future of Healthcare
    • Beyond Survival Jobs: Creating a Well-Rounded Workforce Development Strategy
    • Improving Workforce Outcomes through Contextualized English Instruction
    • Engaging Employers in Immigrant Integration Efforts
  •  Sessions focused on connecting immigrant economic development initiatives to mainstream economic development actors and the business community
    • Integrating Immigrant Economic Development Strategies into Your Region’s Economic Development Mainstream
    • Engaging Chambers of Commerce in Immigrant Economic Development: Making It Work
  •  A session on Building your Local Economy by Supporting Immigrant Entrepreneurs

The Convening will attract as many as 300 participants who are deeply engaged in innovative work to help their local communities benefit from the contributions that immigrants make in the workforce, as business owners, and throughout our communities. Past participants rate the Convening as one of the most valuable, fun, and interesting conferences they attend, noting that the Convening adds value to the work that they do locally. (Literally, nearly 100% of those responding to past convening surveys agree or strongly agree with those sentiments).

We hope you and your local chambers, economic development agencies, and business partners will join us in Philadelphia. You can learn all you need to know about the WE Global Network Convening at www.weconvening.org.


Welcoming Economies Global Network:

Drawing on the lessons of the Rust Belt, the Welcoming Economies Global Network (WE Global) is a group of regional economic development initiatives working to tap into the economic development opportunities created by immigrants across a 10-state region (IL, IA, IN, MI, MN, MO, NY, OH, PA, WI). The network is designed to strengthen the work, maximize the impact, and sustain the efforts of individual local initiatives that welcome, retain, and empower immigrant communities as valued contributors to local economies. WE Global is a project of Welcoming America in partnership with Global Detroit. Learn more about WE Global Network.