PROPOSAL: National Conference: Attraction, Integration, Retention of International Talent

Submitted by Richard Herman on Fri, 11/19/2004 - 00:00.

My thanks
to Ed Morrison and Betsey Merkel of REI for leading a vibrant discussion last Tuesday@REI
on the importance of international human capital (students, entrepreneurs,
knowledge workers, venture capitalists, etc.) to the future of NE Ohio. I am
pleased by their further interest in a potential collaboration between CASE/REI
and CSU/URBAN AFFAIRS COLLEGE in holding a national conference/workshop
entitled: â€œAttraction, Integration,
Retention of International Talent to Post-Industrial, Depopulating Cities.�

this issue, Harvard Business Review and American Demographics Magazine this
month feature articles by/about Richard Florida who argues that nations and
regions that do the best job in attracting international talent (the best minds
the world has to offer, and very mobile) will prosper in the new global

A recent
report by the Brookings Institution indicated that a positive correlation
exists between the number of internationals living in a region and the region’s
economic vitality. Nearly 2/3 of all
population growth in the U.S. during the 1990s is attributed to immigrants and
their children.

Clearly, with the foreign born comprising only 4.5% of the population in
Greater Cleveland, with an aging population that is not being replenished with
newcomers, with clear shortages in skilled workers in key emerging industries,
NE Ohio is facing a “human capital crisis.�

The time is
right for NE Ohio to join the discussion that other Midwest, post-industrial
cities have been having for several years now: can a more welcoming environment for immigrants help revitalize
local economies?

bring a new spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation, energy, and connectivity to
global and multicultural markets to a region. All tot often, however, cities
around the U.S. fail to acknowledge this tremendous resource, and therefore do
not capture the benefits of this rising demographic

I am one of
the principals of Go Global Cleveland, a research and community education
initiative advocating attracting and integrating immigrants to NE Ohio in an
effort to revitalize and repopulate.

A copy of
our discussion paper can be found at:,0426-herman.shtm

Two new economic development initiatives that we are focusing on now address
the following: immigrant entrepreneurship; and international college/university

Entrepreneurship Initiative
. In partnership with
the City of Cleveland, the Hispanic Business Association, the Chinese Merchants
Association, the Arab American Center for Economic and Community Services, the
Catholic Commission, and other participants such as the Federal Reserve Bank, National
City Bank, Growth Capital, Urban League, Bellaire/Puritas CDC, Legal Aid,
Somali Diaspora Association, Albanian Association, Vietnamese Association, and
a variety of immigrant business owners (including high technology), we are
forming the Immigrant Entrepreneurship Initiative, to educate, mentor, network,
and advocate on the value of immigrant-owned businesses in NE Ohio.

International Student Initiative. Two weeks ago under the auspices of Northeast Ohio Council on Higher
Education (NOCHE) and the Global Issues Resource Center of Tri-C, we were
successful in convening over 30 executive-level representatives from most area
colleges and universities to form a cross-campus collaboration to explore ways
we can jointly attract, integrate, and retain international students to NE

Without any
previous coordinated efforts, the region attracted 5,000 international students
who contributed $100,000,000 per annum into the region's economy, making it the
region's 5th largest export.

In an effort to further internationalize the region, enhance its skilled labor
force, and promote new entrepreneurship, it is conceivable that the number of
international students to NE Ohio could double in 5 to 10 years if approached
in a joint, collaborative, and strategic way.

Other initiatives, such as establishing a Welcome Center for newcomers, are
also on the drawing board.

Other cities around the Midwest, similarly situated to Cleveland, are moving
full steam ahead on international human capital issues (Minneapolis, Columbus,
Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Schenectady, Louisville, Indianapolis, Buffalo,
Baltimore, etc.).

Foundations are increasing their investments in Midwest initiatives designed to
attract, integrate and retain immigrants to revitalize their regions (Knight
Foundation, Heinz Foundation, Abell Foundation, Columbus Foundation, etc.)

However, in
Cleveland, immigrant initiatives are still seen as a threat, or are not
understood, and therefore do not gain the attention and funding they deserve.

My humble feeling is that those of us who have been advocating for
internationalization of NE Ohio have hit a wall. 

While we
are having some modest success in identifying and helping to start new
initiatives, there still is a bottleneck of resistance and/or apathy by many
elected officials, foundations, and community members to the idea of welcoming
outsiders who are perceived as competing for scarce resources, rather than
being catalysts for enhanced economic well-being of the entire community

proposed conference may present an ideal opportunity for NE Ohio leaders and
community members to come together, hear best practices from other cities, and
discuss the issues in an open and respectful forum. I believe a major
high-level conference is needed to properly energize and mobilize NE Ohio's
leadership on these issues.


indicated earlier, some potential partners in this high-level conference might
include the following: Brookings Institution (Audrey Singer), Migration Policy
Institute (Brian Ray), Federal Reserve Bank (Research Center for Financial
Access for Immigrants in Chicago) (Ann Paulson), University of Michigan, Center
for Population Studies (William Frey, Neil Peirce, Washington Post, G. Zachary
Pascal, formerly Wall Street Journal, Joel Kotkin, Heinz Foundation (Brian
Kelley); Professor Annalee Saxenian (University of California), Ben Johnson,
Immigration Policy Center, Urban Institute, Metropolis, Mayors of Philadelphia,
Pittsburgh, Columbus, Buffalo, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Schenectady, Baltimore,
American Planning Association, International Economic Development Association,
Knight Foundation, Abell Foundation, Columbus Foundation, companies like
Progressive Insurance which have indicated a local shortage of workers in
certain knowledge-based area, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and
Refugees (,
HR Associations, UpwardlyGlobal
and many


I am pleased that, in addition to REI, others have expressed some initial interest
in this proposal. Of key importance is
the Federal Reserve Bank, both in Cleveland and Chicago, which houses the
Center for Financial Access for Immigrants and has held national and regional
conferences on similar issues:

Both the Cleveland-Fed
and Chicago Fed (Dr. Ann Paulson, Senior Economist and Manager, Consumer Issues
Research) have contacted me expressing some initial interest in the

There has
also been some preliminary interest in the proposal expressed by the Ohio
Community Development Corporation Association; Anne O'Callaghan, Executive
Director, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians (; and the International Economic
Development Council.

Timing is
everything. And the time appears ripe.

There has
been a recent increase of general interest in our work by local

The Plain
Dealer has run a series of Quiet Crisis articles on the need for NEO to
leverage international talent. Of
particular importance was the PD Editorial Board piece entitled “Welcome Mat,�
and a recent syndicated piece by Neil Peirce, Washington Post Writers Group on
the need for Cleveland to be more open to immigrant talent, particularly

Last summer
in Cleveland, the American Jewish Committee, Asian Indians for Better
Government, CSU, Cleveland Public Library, Global Issues Resource Center of
Tri-C, and others convened a three-part panel of local experts on immigration
and economic development.

The City of
Cleveland is now embarking on a new initiative to help coordinate city services
so that refugees arriving in Cleveland feel more welcome, secure, and part of
the community. 

In closing,
I am cognizant of the tremendous investments of time, expertise, and funds that
will be necessary to convene this national/regional conference and make it a
success. However, the necessary
resources are available in NE Ohio to make this happen. 

To better
gauge available institutional investment for such a project, it may be a good
idea to convene a preliminary meeting with key decision-makers and funders to
see if this has legs.

I look
forward to your feedback. Please post any comments to this proposal directly