Detroit Hosts Welcoming Economies Global Network City-to-City Visit: Showcases Its Leadership in Building an Inclusive Economy and City

Visitors from peer immigrant economic development and immigrant inclusion initiatives in Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Buffalo, South Bend, and New Zealand, came to Detroit on October 25-26 to study Detroit as a model for early progress in building a welcoming and inclusive city and regional economy. The visit to Detroit was part of the Welcoming Economies (WE) Global Network City-to-City visit program. These visits enable local immigrant and economic development organizations in the Rust Belt to connect with their peers and learn from each other’s work. These exchanges offer opportunities to swap strategies and best practices, as well as to explore new possibilities for immigrant integration and neighborhood revitalization.

The Detroit City-to-City visit was scheduled on the heels of Detroit being ranked among  the Top Ten cities in America, according to the New American Economy Cities Index,  for its welcoming policies and the successful socioeconomic integration of immigrants. The two-day visit  included discussions about international student retention, immigrant entrepreneurship programs, workforce development, as well as local partnership with state and local government. The visit was co-hosted by Global Detroit and the Michigan Office for New Americans.

       The MONA staff

Members of Global Detroit and MONA’s staff, as well as core partners talked about how our region is pioneering new strategies to better include immigrants and grow our economy. For example, a discussion of immigrant entrepreneurship included former Global Detroit staff member Md Abdul Muhit, now with the  Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), Maria Lalonde of the New Economy Initiative, and Global Detroit’s Raquel Garcia and Sloan Herrick. The conversation highlighted the robust ecosystem of entrepreneurship supports and Global Detroit’s efforts to shape a more inclusive access for immigrants into the ecosystem. Muhit, a Bangladeshi immigrant himself, pointed out that his recruitment by DEGC as a District Business Liaison to work in close partnership with the Detroit Mayor’s Office and City Council to support neighborhood businesses has helped other Bangla-speaking immigrants feel more welcomed. Maria Lalonde praised Global Detroit for playing a critical role as a “trusted connector” in helping immigrant businesses connect with NEIdeas, Motor City Match, ProsperUS Detroit, TechTown’s SWOT City, and other programs.

(L-R) Sloan Herrick, Maria Lalonde, Raquel Garcia, Md Abdul Muhit

The WE Global City-to-City visit program offers the opportunity for peer innovators in the  emerging field of immigrant economic development to identify ways they could learn from each other and to share knowledge and insights on what has worked, what hasn’t, and the progress of each program. Outside of the internal discussions during the visit, the Detroit City-to-City visit included  a public lecture on “Urban Innovations: How Cities Are Embracing Immigrants in their Revitalization Strategies” held at NextEnergy in Midtown Detroit. A panel facilitated by Global Detroit’s Director Steve Tobocman discussed what Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis each has done to include immigrants in their revitalization plans. The discussion highlighted that while these cities are pursuing innovative strategies to make neighborhoods more welcoming to immigrants, they each view African-American inclusion to their work and strategies a crucial element of success.

Steve Tobocman, Rachel Peric & Roberto Torres

The Detroit City-to-City visit included visits to the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit , discussions at Arab American National Museum, and a neighborhood tour of Mexicantown. The two-day event ended with more than a dozen local leaders from the Detroit Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Governor Snyder’s Office, Macomb County, and local nonprofit partners gathering to discuss inclusive economic development issues across our region.

Visiting organizations included: Immigration New Zealand, Welcoming America, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce St. Louis, International Institute of Buffalo, Cincinnati Compass, Louisville Metro Government, St. Louis Mosaic, International Institute of St. Louis, Welcoming Michiana, Michigan Office for New Americans and Global Detroit.

A group shot

In 2010, Global Detroit released a study and strategy to help Metro Detroit’s economic recovery by welcoming and integrating immigrant talent and entrepreneurship. The study, funded by local foundations and the Detroit Regional Chamber, outlined eleven strategies. In addition to its local efforts, Global Detroit spearheaded the creation of the Welcoming Economies Global Network (WE Global), a ten-state regional collaborative of 18 peer local immigrant economic development initiatives across the Rust Belt.


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