For City Builders
Global Detroit is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that revitalizes Michigan’s economy by pursuing strategies that strengthen Detroit’s connections to the world to 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.
Immigration has proven, by far, to be the best American strategy to combat population loss. Detroit, a city devastated by population loss from a peak of 1.8 million residents in 1950 to below 700,000 today, is still the 18th largest city in the U.S., but possesses only the 135th largest foreign-born population. None of the other top 25 largest cities has a foreign-born population outside of the top 100 and only one of the 25 most populous cities has a foreign-born population outside of the top 100. If Detroit could merely hold its own and house the 18th largest foreign-born population, it would have 108,586 more residents.
The story of immigrants reviving decaying urban neighborhoods is well-known, but worth repeating. It is retold here by Lou Glazer, the President of Michigan Future, Inc.:
Once immigrants settle in a neighborhood they attract the next wave of immigrants who want to live in close proximity to their countrymen. This process transforms once deteriorated neighborhoods. Housing stock is upgraded as homes are renovated and new housing is built where abandoned buildings and vacant lots used to be. Immigrant entrepreneurs open neighborhood restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues to serve neighborhood residents. The most successful of these neighborhoods attract customers from across the region—some even becoming tourist destinations.
Detroit must develop an immigration game if it is serious about reversing its continued population loss. But such a strategy must be done with a focus on creating opportunities for incumbent neighborhoods and residents and including them and their neighborhood leadership in the process.
The advantages that cities with robust immigrant populations enjoy are not mere population data points, but extend to the revitalization of neighborhoods and communities that provide significant benefit to the residents that have long lived in these cities. Immigrant groups stabilize residential neighborhoods and commercial retail corridors that are critical to the quality of life. Internationally diverse populations bring food, language, culture, goods, and services; decrease blight and abandonment; increase employment opportunities and property values; improve the quality of life; and add to the richness and vibrancy of the whole city.
Global Detroit’s Neighborhood Strategy
A serious immigration strategy in Detroit must begin on the neighborhood scale. Detroit is a city of neighborhoods and some of the most effective and positive change has been implemented by the tenacity, creativity, and passion of the residents, community organizations, and churches in its neighborhoods.
While the research and data clearly demonstrate the positive impacts robust immigration brings to neighborhoods and long-term residents, there actually are few models of how a neighborhood or city develops and implements strategies to attract and retain immigrants. Since 2010, Global Detroit and its partners have been developing a series of tools for residents and neighborhoods to employ, but any successful immigrant neighborhood revitalization effort is dependent on two critical foundations:
- The initiative must be community-driven; and
- The initiative must be as focused on benefiting incumbent residents, as much as attracting, retaining, or benefiting newcomers.
Global Detroit is committed to working with a variety of partners, including neighborhood associations, churches, schools, block clubs, community development corporations, the Mayor’s Office, the Detroit City Council and its Immigration Task Force, our partners at ProsperUS Detroit, Welcoming Michigan-Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, Welcome Mat Detroit and others who embrace these foundational neighborhood revitalization elements.
Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
Since 2010, Global Detroit has been advocating to have the Detroit Mayor launch an Office of Immigrant Affairs to reach out to its immigrant and ethnic communities, as well as international visitors and investors. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has been extremely supportive of this concept and has been working with Global Detroit to help shape the office, develop its priorities, and ensure that Detroit is at the forefront of cities that welcome, value, and integrate immigrants and refugees into its communities.
Detroit City Council Immigration Task Force
In 2014, Detroit City Council Members Raquel Castaneda-Lopez and Andre Spivey launched the first-ever Detroit City Council Immigration Task Force. With some 30 members, the Task Force has developed plans on economic development, municipal services, immigrant rights, marketing, repopulation, and social services. On September 15, 2014, as part of National Welcoming Week, the Council and the Mayor, working with Welcoming Michigan and Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, announced that Detroit was officially the 41st city to join Welcoming America’s Welcoming City and Counties program.
Global Detroit Director Steve Tobocman has co-chaired the Economic Development and Investment Committee of the Detroit City Council Immigrant Task Force with Ehsan Taqbeem, an immigrant business owner and one of the founders of the Bangladeshi American Public Affairs Committee (BAPAC).
were more than three times as likely as the native-born population to start a new business (between 1996 and 2007).
are six times more likely to start a high-tech firm than U.S.-born residents.
immigrants move to a given county, roughly 270 U.S.- born residents settle in the area as a direct result within the next decade.