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Global Detroit is an effort to revitalize southeast Michigan’s economy by pursuing strategies that strengthen Detroit’s connections to the world and make the region more attractive and welcoming to immigrants, internationals, and foreign trade and investment as a means to produce jobs and regional economic growth.  Originally funded by the New Economy Initiative of Southeast Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Skillman Foundation, a comprehensive Global Detroit study was released in May 2010 that documented the impacts that immigrants have on the regional economy and identified eleven strategic initiatives to revitalize the regional economy. To date, the Global Detroit Initiative has helped launch over a half dozen distinct initiatives in southeast Michigan to make the region more welcoming and to capitalize on the economic opportunity that our international population and connections bring.  As of April 2012, over $4 million in philanthropic funding had been raised for innovative initiatives identified in the Global Detroit study, including international student retention, the Welcoming Michigan campaign, an urban neighborhood microenterprise training and lending program, the Global Detroit Welcome Mat network of immigration and social services, ethnic and minority media reporting on entrepreneurship, a nearshoring initiative, and operation funding for Global Detroit.

Creating a Global City

The Global Detroit study included months of researching academic and popular literature to understand the impacts of immigration on regional economies, as well as interviewing local academics, business leaders, ethnic chamber leaders, hospitals, universities, economic development agencies, African-American leaders, foreign consulates, and immigration service providers. Best practice visits have been made to Cleveland, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, where connections were made with immigrant and international talent attraction and retention initiatives in those communities. This research yielded 45 separate potential strategic program initiatives that could help southeast Michigan’s economic transformation. The members of the Global Detroit Advisory Board ranked each of the strategies and a final list of eleven strategic initiatives was developed.
New collaborations were formed around a number of the programs, while standing organizations were contacted about expanding existing initiatives. Pursuing a broad array of strategic initiatives is critical to producing four strategic outcomes critical to growing our regional economy, producing jobs, and restoring prosperity to southeast Michigan families. The four targeted outcomes of the Global Detroit initiate are: (1) Make the region welcoming to the international community and immigrants. (2) Attract international investment and businesses that create jobs. (3) Strengthen, grow, and revitalize neighborhoods in the city of Detroit and in the region’s core communities. (4)Attract and retain international talent in the region.

Why be Global?

Researchers have distilled the characteristics that drive regional economic engines that produce large numbers of patents, technologies, new businesses, jobs, and wealth. One of the most consistent similarities between catalyst regions of the 20th and 21st Centuries (such as early 20th Century Detroit, Silicon Valley, Boston’s Route 128, etc.) is the large presence of immigrants. Immigrants were at the sources of early 20th Century Midwestern industrial cities like Detroit that propelled America’s growth and they are a significant part of the regions that serve as economic catalysts in today’s world. At the onset of the 20th Century 33.8 percent of Detroit’s population was foreign born. In 2000, Silicon Valley’s population was more than 27 percent foreign born, almost two-and-a-half times the national average. Edward Roberts, the David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Founder and Chair, MIT Entrepreneurship Center, acknowledges that “[t]o immigrate is an entrepreneurial act.” Others have identified the characteristics, traits, skills, and motivations that would inspire a person to uproot their home and move to the United States to be the same characteristics, traits, skills, and motivations that are necessary to be an essential part in a rapid economic growth engine.
Specifically, while immigrants make up only 12.5 percent of the U.S. population, 5.95 1 percent of the Michigan’s population, and 8.3 percent of metro Detroit’s population, they disproportionately contribute to economic growth. The Global Detroit study shows several key findings: (1) Michigan immigrants are well-educated and a positive addition to our talent attraction efforts. (2) American and Michigan immigrants have the education and skill in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields critical to creating new jobs and industries. (3) American and Michigan immigrants start the high-tech and venture-capital businesses that lead our entry into the new economy. (4) American and Michigan immigrants invent the new technologies that will continue to drive future job creation and regional prosperity. (5) Michigan immigrants are more entrepreneurial and more likely to start businesses. (6) Michigan immigrants are productive, hard-working, and more likely to be of working age. (7) Metro Detroit’s immigrants disproportionately contribute to regional prosperity. (8) Immigrants are unique catalysts for economic renewal and population growth in cities like Detroit and the region’s other core communities. (9) Immigrants decrease crime and raise property values.