Why Immigration Makes Sense for Detroit’s Future

steve tobocman

Steve Tobocman, above, of business-in-residence New Solutions Group, spoke to us last Friday about one of their initiatives, Global Detroit. Global Detroit focuses on how immigrants can help revitalize a region such as Detroit.

Steve’s first point addressed the need in Detroit, with a population cut in half between 1950 and now, and in 2013 the largest municipal bankruptcy in history. Our per capita income went from 17th in 1999 to 40th in 2009, and in the same time period Michigan families lost $63 billion as home prices plummeted.

What about immigration, then, as an economic development strategy? Steve pointed to the following facts:

  1. 28% of U.S. small businesses started in 2011 were founded by immigrants.
  2. 70% of the most valuable brands in the world were started by U.S. immigrants or their children, including Ford, G.E., AT & T, Boeing, Apple, Intel and Google.
  3. Nearly 2/3 of America is an immigrant, a child or grandchild of an immigrant, or married to an immigrant. (A show of hands at our meeting showed similar numbers from our group).
  4. Immigrant incarceration rates are 1/5 of the incarceration rates of people born in the U.S.

Global Detroit sees immigration as a revitalization strategy.  Currently, Detroit is the 18th largest city in the U.S., but has the 138th largest immigrant population. Pointing to how immigrants have strengthened Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx in New York, Steve suggested immigration strategy as an African-American neighborhood stabilization strategy. Immigrant entrepreneurship is 3x the rate of non-immigrants in Michigan, and because they bring additional economic activity, immigration rates are associated with lower African-American unemployment.

Global Detroit launched in 2013 and has 5 fully-launched initiatives and a dozen more in development or operating in-house. Global Detroit has 4 strategic outcomes:

  1. Attract and retain international talent in the region.
  2. Make the region welcoming to the international community and immigrants.
  3. Attract international investment and businesses that create jobs.
  4. Cultivate immigrant/ethnic revitalization of neighborhoods in the city of Detroit and the region’s core communities.

Some of their initiatives include:

  1. Welcome Mat,  an inventory of services for immigrants
  2. ProsperUs Detroit, training support for entrepreneurs
  3. International Student Retention, keeping immigrant students here
  4. Welcoming Michigan, a program to build mutual respect between foreign-born and U.S.-born

For more detail, visit the Global Detroit website. We’re honored that organizations like this are a part of our community.

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