Mobilizing Detroit’s immigrant potential
What do they do?
Global Detro is a non-profit that promotes awareness of the benefits immigrants bring to southeast Michigan. They run a number of initiatives to make the region more welcoming and to empower immigrants to fully participate in the regional economy.
Steve Tobocman is the founder and Director of Global Detroit. Sloan Herrick, my interviewee, is their Deputy Director. Raquel Garcia Andersen, Director of Partnerships and Community Outreach. Gracie Xavier, Director of Corporate and Economic Development Strategy. Kathryn Brennan, program manager. Beth Szurpicki, Director of Special Projects. Mary Lane, Director, Welcome Mat Detroit.
After serving five years on legislature, Steve Tobocman was approached by the Skillman Foundation, the Detroit Regional Chamber, and the New Economy Initiative (NEI) to explore the economic benefits that immigrants bring to southeast Michigan. These findings would later be released as a study titled The Global Detroit Study. This study was the driving force that pushed Global Detroit to begin fundraising to advance other initiatives based in immigrant empowerment. Recognizing that there were no other local programs providing an economic perspective on immigration, they sought to fill that gap, bringing on a board of directors, getting their 501C3 status, and becoming an official non-profit.
According to Sloan, corporations in Michigan have talent gaps, meaning a dearth of people who have been technically trained in a specific field, such as engineers or computer scientists. However, there are a multitude of international students who would be able to fill these gaps. So, Global Detroit has started working to connect international students with the corporations in southeast Michigan, filling these gaps. To do this, they initiated a number of programs such as the Global Talent Retention Initiative– an entrepreneurship program that connects people with networking and funds. In addition to connecting immigrants with certain corporations, Global Detroit also wants to build a global region of acceptance, by changing the narrative around immigrants.
From an early age, Sloan sought out opportunities to unite her community and promote equity in an otherwise segregated region of North Carolina. After trying some projects in North Carolina and realizing the town was too far gone, Sloan began to educate herself. She studied psychology and minored in anthropology and political silence in college. Through anthropology, she learned that cultural norms were maintaining this dynamic of white superiority in the south. She also learned that extreme propaganda existed when in came to immigrants and minorities. Sloan said, “Those were the seeds that drove me to move to Charlotte, North Carolina, and led me to Wayne State.” Indecisive, Sloan applied to the school of social work at Wayne State University (WSU) because they let her decide whether to do interpersonal or community work. In addition to allowing her choice, Sloan says WSU offered her a variety of perspective challenging courses such as exercises in being aware of privilege and being aware of discrimination and other people’s experiences. It was with this Diverse education that Sloan realized she wanted to work around issues of civil rights.
What I’ve Learned:
When discussing why Global Detroit was unique when it came to how they handled immigration, Sloan continuously brought up the fact that they worked solely with economic development. She said the economic development lens was important because most leaders aren’t moved by moral right. Rather they are moved by the bottom line (finance). “If we could talk more about dollars and cents, we could overcome this emotional connection people have with the negative image of immigrants.”
Green Garage business-in-residence spotlights are written by Nehe-Miah Scarborough, a student at Detroit Cristo Rey High School who’s working with the Green Garage during the 2015-16 school year.