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Immigration Keeping State’s Population Afloat

June 4, 2024

SBAM President and CEO Brian Calley discussed this new report on the Small Business Briefing. Click HERE to hear more.

(MACKINAC ISLAND) – International immigration is keeping Michigan’s population stable and the jobs staffed, according to a report released during the 2024 Mackinac Policy Conference.

The report was released by Michigan Global Talent Coalition, 20 businesses and economic development organizations across Michigan, to advocate for immigration. Several chambers of commerce, including Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City signed on just as immigration turns into a hot-button issue during the Presidential campaign.

“It doesn’t need to be a political issue, especially when you focus on the economics of it,” said Global Detroit Executive Director Steve Tobocman.

He said the coalition was focused on the issue of getting immigrants into the state of Michigan and not the federal issues that have swirled up from the influx of asylum seekers at the southern border.

He also said the images of abandoned buildings and the dilapidated urban core were due to a population loss.

“We know what population loss brings to communities,” Tobocman said.

Global Detroit Managing Director Alania Jackson conceded that there wasn’t much that they could do regarding the federal immigration issues, but she said there were things that could be done on a state level, such as creating an environment in the state that would be welcoming to immigrant populations.

She said the strategy of convincing people that immigration is good for the state’s economy was not something new.

“Henry Ford didn’t care where you were from. Henry Ford said, ‘Come work on the line. We’re going to do something that nobody else has done before and we’re going to put Detroit on the map,’” Jackson said.

She said he brought Blacks, Chaldeans and white Irish together in the midst of segregation to work the factories that built Michigan as an economic powerhouse.

“We need to remind them of that part of their history, and we also make clear that the numbers don’t lie about foreign-born folks that have already been deeply embedded in our economy,” she said.

She said the recruitment of international students was not something that should be done at the expense of people who have lived in the state all of their lives, but it was something needed for the state to continue to prosper.

“We’re all in this together,” she said.

Grand Rapids Chamber President Rick Baker said it was truly a matter of getting bodies into the jobs that needed to be filled.

“A key challenge for us is the reality that, over the next decade, the volume of unfilled jobs will continue to rise and the demographics are working against us,” Baker said.

He said the data from the report put together by the American Immigration Council would help them in their advocacy in getting more immigrants to move to Michigan.

Small Business Association of Michigan President Brian Calley said Toronto, Canada, was an example of how to do immigration right, because an area without population can’t experience growth.

He pointed to the international students who graduated from universities that were staying in North America, but not the United States. He said they were moving to places like Toronto, because of the incentives that Canada was offering, giving them growth that was seen in places like Florida and Texas.

“It kind of busts the theory that we can’t do it with cold weather,” Calley said.

Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Susan Corbin said the state was working to help get those students jobs after they graduated.

“I had one engineer suggest we staple a visa to their diploma after they graduate,” Corbin said.

She said the Growing Michigan Together Council report heavily suggested going after immigrants.

Corbin said among the items that Michigan is doing to help pull those immigrants was the Office of Global Michigan.

Republicans have scrutinized the workings of the Office of Global Michigan and asked for an investigation into how the funding is being used.

Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), when asked by MIRS about issues surrounding immigration, didn’t talk about immigration in terms of filling jobs.

“It’s unfortunate that President (Joe) Biden won’t do what’s needed to close the border and stem the flow of illegal immigration, illegal drugs and crime and sex trafficking. It’s going to cost more,” Nesbitt said.


Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter

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